Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Re: Circadian rhythms.

Charles Czeisler of Harvard University established a decade ago that the mean for the intrinsic, or “free-running,” activity rhythm is 24 hours 11 minutes, plus or minus 16 minutes. It is not 24 hours 11 minutes for everyone, of course, as there is considerable variation among individuals and over the course of one’s life.


By studying the family relationships, Ptácek found that the disorder is inherited, and he has found the genes involved. The genetic implications prompted two senior researchers to comment, “It seems that our parents — through their DNA — continue to influence our bedtimes.”


Humans have broken many links with the natural world. Our food comes pre-packed, our drink pre-bottled and we take pills instead of chewing leaves. Electricity turns our nights into days, and central heating our winters into spring. But if we go deep into a dark cave without a watch, after a few days we revert to ancient patterns. Deprived of time cues, our rhythms slowly drift out of alignment with the outside world.

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