Time out: The dangers of disrupting your body clock

PARIS: Messing with your body’s clock is dangerous business, in fact it could make you sick — or worse.
The inner timekeeper dubbed the “circadian clock”, governs the day-night cycle that guides sleep and eating patterns, hormones and even body temperature.
It is important enough that the Nobel Medicine Prize was awarded on Monday to three US scientists whose work illuminated the fundamentals of how it ticks.
The trio identified genes that regulate the clock, and the mechanism by which light can synchronise it.
Yet humans have a long history of overriding the circadian-driven need for sleep, Russell Foster, a professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford University said — the most obvious example being night work.
Such tinkering with Mother Nature can have serious consequences ranging from impulsive behaviour to life-threatening conditions such as obesity and cancer, the experts say.
Just look at the poor health records of shift workers such as nurses or factory labourers.
The World Health Organization has already raised the red flag, with a 2007 report noting that “circadian disruption” is “probably carcinogenic” — which means cancer-causing.
The trouble is that the human body never really adapts to operating outside the normal cycle of working by day, and sleeping at night.
Like everyone else, shift workers’ biological clocks are set by the rising and setting of the Sun — not their work schedule. “There is no medicine in the world that allows you to… speed up or slow down your body clock,” said Claude Gronfier, a neurobiologist at France’s Inserm research institute.
When workers force themselves to stay awake, it triggers the release of stress hormones such as cortisol — the same one that rushes into your blood in a life-or-death situation. — AFP