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Concept: Circadian rhythm sleep disorder


Circadian rhythms, metabolism, and nutrition are intimately linked [1, 2], although effects of meal timing on the human circadian system are poorly understood. We investigated the effect of a 5-hr delay in meals on markers of the human master clock and multiple peripheral circadian rhythms. Ten healthy young men undertook a 13-day laboratory protocol. Three meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) were given at 5-hr intervals, beginning either 0.5 (early) or 5.5 (late) hr after wake. Participants were acclimated to early meals and then switched to late meals for 6 days. After each meal schedule, participants' circadian rhythms were measured in a 37-hr constant routine that removes sleep and environmental rhythms while replacing meals with hourly isocaloric snacks. Meal timing did not alter actigraphic sleep parameters before circadian rhythm measurement. In constant routines, meal timing did not affect rhythms of subjective hunger and sleepiness, master clock markers (plasma melatonin and cortisol), plasma triglycerides, or clock gene expression in whole blood. Following late meals, however, plasma glucose rhythms were delayed by 5.69 ± 1.29 hr (p < 0.001), and average glucose concentration decreased by 0.27 ± 0.05 mM (p < 0.001). In adipose tissue, PER2 mRNA rhythms were delayed by 0.97 ± 0.29 hr (p < 0.01), indicating that human molecular clocks may be regulated by feeding time and could underpin plasma glucose changes. Timed meals therefore play a role in synchronizing peripheral circadian rhythms in humans and may have particular relevance for patients with circadian rhythm disorders, shift workers, and transmeridian travelers.

Concepts: Sleep, Circadian rhythm, Period, ARNTL, Circadian rhythm sleep disorder, Melatonin, Dinner


Although the health burden of shift work has not been extensively studied, evidence suggests that it may affect the metabolic balance and cause obesity and other metabolic disorders. Sleep deprivation, circadian desynchronization and behavioral changes in diet and physical activity are among the most commonly mentioned factors in studies of the association between night work and metabolic disorders. Individual adaptation to night work depends greatly on personal factors such as family and social life, but occupational interventions may also make a positive contribution to the transition to shift work, such as exposure to bright lights during the night shift, melatonin use, shift regularity and clockwise rotation, and dietary adaptations for the metabolic needs of night workers. The evaluation of the impact of night work on health and of the mechanisms underlying this relationship can serve as a basis for intervention strategies to minimize the health burden of shift work. This review aimed to identify highlights regarding therapeutic implications following the association between night and shift work and metabolic disorders, as well as the mechanisms and pathways responsible for these relationships.

Concepts: Nutrition, Obesity, Sleep, Sleep deprivation, Circadian rhythm, Circadian rhythms, Circadian rhythm sleep disorder, Melatonin


Later chronotype (i.e. evening preference) and later timing of sleep have been associated with greater morbidity, including higher rates of metabolic dysfunction and cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, no one has examined whether chronotype is associated with mortality risk to date. Our objective was to test the hypothesis that being an evening type is associated with increased mortality in a large cohort study, the UK Biobank. Our analysis included 433 268 adults aged 38-73 at the time of enrolment and an average 6.5-year follow-up. The primary exposure was chronotype, as assessed through a single self-reported question-defining participants as definite morning types, moderate morning types, moderate evening types or definite evening types. The primary outcomes were all-cause mortality and mortality due to CVD. Prevalent disease was also compared among the chronotype groups. Analyses were adjusted for age, sex, ethnicity, smoking, body mass index, sleep duration, socioeconomic status and comorbidities. Greater eveningness, particularly being a definite evening type, was significantly associated with a higher prevalence of all comorbidities. Comparing definite evening type to definite morning type, the associations were strongest for psychological disorders (OR 1.94, 95% CI 1.86-2.02, p = < 0.001), followed by diabetes (OR 1.30, 95% CI 1.24-1.36, p = < 0.001), neurological disorders (OR 1.25, 95% CI 1.20-1.30, p = < 0.001), gastrointestinal/abdominal disorders (OR 1.23, 95% CI 1.19-1.27, p = < 0.001) and respiratory disorders (OR 1.22, 95% CI 1.18-1.26, p = < 0.001). The total number of deaths was 10 534, out of which 2127 were due to CVD. Greater eveningness, based on chronotype as an ordinal variable, was associated with a small increased risk of all-cause mortality (HR 1.02, 95% CI 1.004-1.05, p = 0.017) and CVD mortality (HR 1.04, 95% CI 1.00-1.09, p = 0.06). Compared to definite morning types, definite evening types had significantly increased risk of all-cause mortality (HR 1.10, 95% CI 1.02-1.18, p = 0.012). This first report of increased mortality in evening types is consistent with previous reports of increased levels of cardiometabolic risk factors in this group. Mortality risk in evening types may be due to behavioural, psychological and physiological risk factors, many of which may be attributable to chronic misalignment between internal physiological timing and externally imposed timing of work and social activities. These findings suggest the need for researching possible interventions aimed at either modifying circadian rhythms in individuals or at allowing evening types greater working hour flexibility.

Concepts: Psychology, Epidemiology, Medical statistics, Actuarial science, Sleep, Mental disorder, Circadian rhythm, Circadian rhythm sleep disorder


Why do we go to sleep late and struggle to wake up on time? Historically, light-dark cycles were dictated by the solar day, but now humans can extend light exposure by switching on artificial lights. We use a mathematical model incorporating effects of light, circadian rhythmicity and sleep homeostasis to provide a quantitative theoretical framework to understand effects of modern patterns of light consumption on the human circadian system. The model shows that without artificial light humans wakeup at dawn. Artificial light delays circadian rhythmicity and preferred sleep timing and compromises synchronisation to the solar day when wake-times are not enforced. When wake-times are enforced by social constraints, such as work or school, artificial light induces a mismatch between sleep timing and circadian rhythmicity (‘social jet-lag’). The model implies that developmental changes in sleep homeostasis and circadian amplitude make adolescents particularly sensitive to effects of light consumption. The model predicts that ameliorating social jet-lag is more effectively achieved by reducing evening light consumption than by delaying social constraints, particularly in individuals with slow circadian clocks or when imposed wake-times occur after sunrise. These theory-informed predictions may aid design of interventions to prevent and treat circadian rhythm-sleep disorders and social jet-lag.

Concepts: Scientific method, Mathematics, Physics, Light, Sleep, Lighting, Circadian rhythm, Circadian rhythm sleep disorder


Sleeping sickness is a fatal disease caused by Trypanosoma brucei, a unicellular parasite that lives in the bloodstream and interstitial spaces of peripheral tissues and the brain. Patients have altered sleep/wake cycles, body temperature, and endocrine profiles, but the underlying causes are unknown. Here, we show that the robust circadian rhythms of mice become phase advanced upon infection, with abnormal activity occurring during the rest phase. This advanced phase is caused by shortening of the circadian period both at the behavioral level as well as at the tissue and cell level. Period shortening is T. brucei specific and independent of the host immune response, as co-culturing parasites with explants or fibroblasts also shortens the clock period, whereas malaria infection does not. We propose that T. brucei causes an advanced circadian rhythm disorder, previously associated only with mutations in clock genes, which leads to changes in the timing of sleep.

Concepts: Immune system, Bacteria, Sleep, Trypanosoma brucei, Circadian rhythm, Period, Chronotype, Circadian rhythm sleep disorder


Shift work, like chronic jet lag, is known to disrupt workers' normal circadian rhythms and social life, and to be associated with increased health problems (eg, ulcers, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, breast cancer, reproductive difficulties) and with acute effects on safety and productivity. However, very little is known about the long-term consequences of shift work on cognitive abilities. The aim of this study was to assess the chronicity and reversibility of the effects of shift work on cognition.

Concepts: Medicine, Epidemiology, Cancer, Cognition, Thought, Knowledge, Circadian rhythms, Circadian rhythm sleep disorder


Circadian rhythm disturbances occur in symptomatic Alzheimer disease (AD) and have been hypothesized to contribute to disease pathogenesis. However, it is unknown whether circadian changes occur during the presymptomatic phase of the disease.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Circadian rhythm, Circadian rhythm sleep disorder, Pathogenesis


Obesity has reached crisis proportions in industrialized societies. Many factors converge to yield increased body mass index (BMI). Among these is sleep duration. The circadian clock controls sleep timing through the process of entrainment. Chronotype describes individual differences in sleep timing, and it is determined by genetic background, age, sex, and environment (e.g., light exposure). Social jetlag quantifies the discrepancy that often arises between circadian and social clocks, which results in chronic sleep loss. The circadian clock also regulates energy homeostasis, and its disruption-as with social jetlag-may contribute to weight-related pathologies. Here, we report the results from a large-scale epidemiological study, showing that, beyond sleep duration, social jetlag is associated with increased BMI. Our results demonstrate that living “against the clock” may be a factor contributing to the epidemic of obesity. This is of key importance in pending discussions on the implementation of Daylight Saving Time and on work or school times, which all contribute to the amount of social jetlag accrued by an individual. Our data suggest that improving the correspondence between biological and social clocks will contribute to the management of obesity.

Concepts: Time, Sleep, Body mass index, Circadian rhythm, Chronotype, Circadian rhythm sleep disorder, Daylight saving time, Time zone


Shift work, which imposes a habitual disruption in the circadian system, has been linked to increased incidence of cardiometabolic diseases, and acute circadian misalignment alters various metabolic processes. However, it remains unclear whether day-to-day circadian dysregulation contributes to these risks beyond poor sleep and other behavioral characteristics.

Concepts: Sleep, Circadian rhythm, Circadian rhythms, Chronotype, Circadian rhythm sleep disorder, Melatonin, Lark, Night owl


Disrupted circadian rhythms and reduced sleep duration are associated with several human diseases, particularly obesity and type 2 diabetes, but until recently, little was known about the genetic factors influencing these heritable traits. We performed genome-wide association studies of self-reported chronotype (morning/evening person) and self-reported sleep duration in 128,266 white British individuals from the UK Biobank study. Sixteen variants were associated with chronotype (P<5x10-8), including variants near the known circadian rhythm genes RGS16 (1.21 odds of morningness, 95% CI [1.15, 1.27], P = 3x10-12) and PER2 (1.09 odds of morningness, 95% CI [1.06, 1.12], P = 4x10-10). The PER2 signal has previously been associated with iris function. We sought replication using self-reported data from 89,283 23andMe participants; thirteen of the chronotype signals remained associated at P<5x10-8 on meta-analysis and eleven of these reached P<0.05 in the same direction in the 23andMe study. We also replicated 9 additional variants identified when the 23andMe study was used as a discovery GWAS of chronotype (all P<0.05 and meta-analysis P<5x10-8). For sleep duration, we replicated one known signal in PAX8 (2.6 minutes per allele, 95% CI [1.9, 3.2], P = 5.7x10-16) and identified and replicated two novel associations at VRK2 (2.0 minutes per allele, 95% CI [1.3, 2.7], P = 1.2x10-9; and 1.6 minutes per allele, 95% CI [1.1, 2.2], P = 7.6x10-9). Although we found genetic correlation between chronotype and BMI (rG = 0.056, P = 0.05); undersleeping and BMI (rG = 0.147, P = 1x10-5) and oversleeping and BMI (rG = 0.097, P = 0.04), Mendelian Randomisation analyses, with limited power, provided no consistent evidence of causal associations between BMI or type 2 diabetes and chronotype or sleep duration. Our study brings the total number of loci associated with chronotype to 22 and with sleep duration to three, and provides new insights into the biology of sleep and circadian rhythms in humans.

Concepts: Genetics, Sleep, Circadian rhythm, Chronobiology, Circadian rhythms, Chronotype, Circadian rhythm sleep disorder, Melatonin