Chronobiology is the study of the timing of biological events that occur inside the body. You can think of it as the master controller which governs every cell, organ, and ultimately system.
The current health and longevity market is littered with generic cookie cutter recommendations that are built on shaky ’90s ideas. An obvious example would be the fitness industry’s drive to get people up early in the morning in order to “seize the day”; or the dietary recommendation that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Neither of which considers the differences in human’s chronobiology requirements.
This is due to a previously limited understanding of how our bodies interplay with the environment. The human body has adapted across millions of years to operate symbiotically with the earth. In the last 50 years, we’ve refined the macro understanding of proactive health which is heavily focused on diet, exercise, and mental wellbeing, all of which are potent contributors to health outcomes. But what if we told you there is something more powerful and efficient that could increase the effectiveness, yield, and utility of your health programme by an exponential margin?
"The current health and longevity market is littered with generic cookie cutter recommendations that are built on shaky ’90s ideas."
Given that no human body is the same, it won’t surprise you to learn that we are programmed to operate on different rhythms. A hypothesis for this could be an evolutionary survival mechanism that developed in isolated segments of the human population as a favorable bias to their particular environment: e.g generations of tribes that hunted and gathered at dawn vs tribes that hunted and gathered in the evening, eventually the environment dictated the genetic predispositions for favouring the morning or night. Regardless of how it occurred, it’s inside all of us and we should pay close attention to it.
The key is synchronizing your chronobiological clock to your body’s specific requirements. At the most basic level, you can look at your sleep, activity, and eating windows as your guide to understanding how to hack your performance.
Night owls will not do well with an early morning “Carpe Diem” approach. The testament to this is how you feel for immediate hours after exercise. If you have a bias towards mornings you will feel energised, mentally clear, and vibrant until the late arvo. Night owls will feel fatigued and lethargic, maybe even anxious until late arvo when they come into their own.
"Anyone who operates off of their natural biological clocks will find optimal physical performance impossible."
So what’s going on mechanistically? Well, the evening individual’s body clock is not prepared to receive peak levels of adrenaline and cortisol at that period of the day, conversely, the morning person is the opposite. The peak output windows are not the same and neither are the sleep recovery windows either. The night owl can push their sleep window out by up to 2 hours later but, they must stay in bed until later to achieve the same level of rest and slower daily wind up; whereas the morning person should attack their day and but hit the hay early to achieve the same level of recovery.
Now, It’s important to caveat this by acknowledging that there are individuals who have adaptability genes who are fortunate enough to be able to play “two hands” in the chronobiology game. They make up around 50.7% of the population, however, the majority will still have a preferential swing but will be able to take some shortcuts around the confines of traditional morning or night biased types.
To find out which chronotype you are, we recommend going to Dr. Breus' Chronotype questionnaire here.
Why is chronobiology so important? Anyone who operates off of their natural biological clocks will find optimal physical performance impossible, you are literally paddling upstream. Every cell in your body has been pre-programmed by your ancestral past to operate effectively in specific sleep, exercise, and nutrition windows. Ignoring the signs long-term will land you in a pro-inflammatory state that will accelerate your aging processes. If anything chronobiology provides a platform to get back to being more intuitive with our own bodies.
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