You have likely heard of your “internal clock” from people who say you need to get it “back on schedule.” But what is this timepiece within us, and how does it work?
If you envision a ticking clock in your head or belly, you are not alone. Many people likely imagine a clock with moving hands, that keeps track of the day. For a long time, scientists have known that human bodies keep schedules for things like when to wake, when to sleep, and when to get hungry. They also know this schedule changes.
Our internal time-keeping arrangement is known as the circadian system. “Circadian” means that it runs on a nearly 24-hour regimen, though not exactly. Instead of counting hours and minutes, special proteins tell the body when to perform certain functions. These functions are things like raising and lowering blood pressure, adjusting temperature, and knowing when to go to sleep. Cycles of light and darkness affect these proteins. Regular daylight cycles keep them on a consistent rhythm, while erratic cycles disrupt them, and can cause health problems.
The scientists who discovered the protein system, Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael W. Young, and Michael Rosbash, received a 2017 Nobel Peace Prize in medicine, and medals presented by King Carl XIV Gustaf of Sweden.
The National Science Foundation’s director, France Córdova, said, “Their findings have significant implications for health and wellness, and connect with our daily lives every time we go to sleep and wake up.”
As you carry on your daily routines, take a moment to consider the biology that ensures you run on a consistent schedule every day. The body is a complicated machine that—when studied—can help us better understand ourselves.
[Source: Science News for Students]