Taking Advantage of Chronobiology: Timing is Everything

I remember when I was in my medical residency training, an expert came to lecture us on how this new field of Chronobiology would revolutionize medicine. That was over 25 years ago!

rhythm of life chronobiology

He showed research that proved chemotherapy given to cancer patients was more effective when given at certain times. I don’t remember now whether it was best during the night or the day, but it was based on when our cells normally divide. I never forgot the basic premise of the lecture: timing counts in medicine, as it does in everything else in life!

Here, I’m going to discuss a few interesting and important facts about timing and your health.

Scientific American published a book several years ago titled The Scientific American Day in the Life of Your Brain” by Judith Horstman. Horstman’s book discusses how your inner biologic clock plays a key role in so many health processes. Its main focus is on your brain and its emotions, and a lot of chronobiology was detailed.

Also, an article from Scientific American used a different book’s pictorial of the Rhythm of Life from “ The Body Clock Guide to Better Heath” by Michael Smolinsky and Lynne Lamberg (Henry Holt and Company 2000).

Here are some great tips, sourced from those publications:

8:30 am is the most likely time for a bowel movement. If you suffer from constipation, make sure to get up and eat at least 1/2 an hour before to have the odds in your favor to get your bowels going! Get that psyllium fiber down.

10:00 am is when people are most alert – skip the coffee at this time, and save your Java for when you really need it!

2:30pm to 3:30pm is when you’ll have your best coordination. It might be a good idea to challenge your arch rival in tennis to a few sets on the weekend. True, he may be at his peak as well, but you will have the psychological edge just knowing this fact.

energy levels throughout day

5:00pm is when you have the greatest cardiovascular efficiency and muscle strength. If you are not too tired from work, it is an ideal time to lift some weights or go for a run.

6:30pm to 7:00 pm: this is when your body temperature is the highest. It’s probably why when you are sick the early night fever feels so miserable. Timing your Tylenol at this time might be sensible. Also, best time to urinate. You guys with enlarged prostates should consider this an opportune time to hit the bathroom.

9:00 pm: Your body starts secreting melatonin– the sleep hormone. Don’t fight your natural rhythm by increasing the caffeine, or video games. Your body wants to settle down. I usually recommend my patient’s with sleep problems time their melatonin dose around now.

1:00 am: Pregnant woman are most likely to go into labor. My wife’s personal experience supports this- both my sons came into this world around 5 am, a few hours after she went into labor.

6:00 am: Heart rate and blood pressure begin to rise. This along with platelet stickiness increasing explains why a higher percentage of heart attacks and strokes occur at this time until noon; one thought is to time your aspirin by taking it at night to get peak levels by this time in the early morning.

Your personal Body Clock can’t be reset like a watch, so pay heed and synchronize to its beat!

- Dr. Dean Mitchell
Mitchell Medical Group, NYC

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