Time is everything, and it also has a great impact on your health. Now there is a blood test to better understand your internal clock and optimize it for better well-being.
The TimeSignature test was developed by researchers from Northwestern Medicine scientists. It requires two extractions of blood. It offers information through markers of gene expression over time in your body compared to time in the external world.
For example, it may be 8 o’clock in the morning, but your body may be functioning as if it were 6 o’clock in the morning. Previously, determining a person’s internal clock could only be done by drawing blood several times in a specific lapse.
The test, which measures 40 different gene expression markers in the blood, can be performed at any time of the day, regardless of the patient’s circadian pattern or resting level. A report on this was published in PNAS earlier this month.
What’s the big deal?
According to experts, knowing more about your internal clock can help you optimize your time, take medications at the best time and even prevent diseases.
“There is a lot of evidence that indicates that the alignment between your internal clock and when you schedule your activities throughout the day can affect your overall health,” said Melissa A. St. Hilaire, PhD, medical instructor at Harvard Medical School and biostatistician in the division of sleep and circadian disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
She said there seem to be optimal windows for when to sleep, eat and complete other activities based on our internal time clocks, which vary between people.
In healthy people, the time of the internal clock varies up to five hours, which means that a person’s optimal bedtime could be 9 p.m. and someone else could be 2 a.m. If you try to sleep at a time that is not ideal for your internal clock, then you may have trouble sleeping, St. Hilaire said.
Similarly, eating a meal at the “wrong” internal time could cause changes in metabolism, including weight gain.
“If we know our personal internal time, we may be able to schedule these activities around our optimal windows.”
Testing your clock
“This is a much more precise and sophisticated measure than identifying if you are a morning lark or a night owl,” Rosemary Braun, PhD, co-author of the report and assistant professor of preventive medicine at Feinberg University at Northwestern University in Chicago, said in a statement.
The biological clock of our body directs our circadian rhythms, which include cycles of sleep and wakefulness. Previous research has linked circadian maladjustments with everything from obesity and depression to heart disease and asthma.
“Before, we did not have a clinically viable way to evaluate the clock in healthy people and in people with diseases, we can now see if an interrupted clock correlates with several diseases and, more importantly, if it can predict who is going to get sick “said Dr. Ravi Allada, coauthor of the PNAS study and professor of neurobiology at Weinberg, at Northwestern. University of Arts and Sciences.
The researchers say that the blood test information will help people to take the drugs at the most effective time for their bodies. It can also help scientists better understand how misaligned circadian clocks affect health conditions and diseases.
“This is really an integral part of personalized medicine,” said Dr. Phyllis Zee, co-author and chief of sleep medicine in neurology at the Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “So many medications have optimal times for dosing, knowing what time it is in your body is essential to get the most effective benefits.The best time for you to take a medication for blood pressure or chemotherapy or radiation may be different from someone else.” .
Better clock, better health?
“We know that if you have an interruption in your internal clock, you can predispose it to a variety of diseases. “Virtually all tissue and organ systems are governed by the circadian rhythm,” Allada said.
St. Hilaire noted that disruptions in circadian rhythms have been associated with mood disorders such as depression, neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and metabolic disorders, including obesity and diabetes.
“Circadian rhythms play a complex role in almost every system of your body,” St. Hilaire said. “Maintaining good circadian health, therefore, seems to be a key factor in maintaining good general health.”
Keep your internal clock running smoothly
Follow the light and dark patterns to keep your internal clock working in a 24-hour cycle.
St. Hilaire advises people to have good sleep habits, which means going to sleep at the same time every night, getting up at the same time every morning and being exposed to outside light as soon as possible after waking up . In addition, he says that people should avoid electronic devices before going to bed and eating and exercising at the same time of day.
“Occasional interruptions of your schedule are not expected to cause long-term damage,” St. Hilaire said. “However, if you are constantly changing bedtime or mealtime from one day to the next, then your internal clock will not be stable, and that instability for months or years can contribute to some disease processes.”