Sleep eight hours a night. Eat three square meals a day. We've all heard these common tidbits of advice regarding keeping our bodies and minds to a strict schedule, but in today's 24/7 society, who really adheres to these old-school edicts? According to recent Nobel Prize-winning research, your body's habit of keeping an internal clock (and our modern refusal to adhere to it) may be wreaking havoc in more areas of your life than you're aware.
The idea that only our conscious minds are aware of what time of day it is seems to be a prevalent one, but new findings are suggesting that every organ (and even perhaps every cell) has an awareness of schedule and timing. This can have far-reaching effects as the various parts of the body communicate with one another, often getting mixed signals about what time it is because of our contradictory habits— eating late at night, for instance, or staying up all night and then sleeping in the next day.
This erratic behavior, it stands to reason, has far-reaching effects. As a 2013 study in the International Journal of Obesity pointed out, "...people who ate their main meal earlier in the day were much more successful at losing weight," according to study author Frank Scheer— up to 25% more successful, which is nothing to sneeze at.
While more research needs to be done to better understand how different parts of the body react to various schedules, Fred Turek, a circadian scientist at Northwestern University, believes these contradictory and out-of-sync rhythms may be to blame for a whole host of ailments."What happens is that you get a total de-synchronization of the clocks within us," he says, "which may be underlying the chronic diseases we face in our society today." Nevertheless, he's optimistic about unraveling the secrets of these internal clocks: "We'd like to be in a position where we'd be able to monitor hundreds of different rhythms in your body and see if they're out of sync — and then try to normalize them," he says.