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Bangalore-based Rashmi Vasudeva's journalism has appeared in many Indian and international publications over the past decade. A features writer with over nine years of experience heading a health and fitness supplement in a mainstream Indian newspaper, her niche areas include health, wellness, fitness, food and nutrition. Her articles have appeared in various publications including Mint-Wall Street Journal, Deccan Herald (mainstream South Indian newspaper), Smart Life (Health magazine from the Malayala Manorama Group of publications), YourStory.com (India's media technology platform for entrepreneurs), Avantika (a noir arts and theatre magazine), ZDF (a German public broadcasting company) and others. With a Masters in Globalisation and Media Studies from Europe, she has also dabbled in academics, travel writing and socio-cultural studies. Mother to a frisky toddler, she hums 'wheels on the bus' while working and blogs about her life and loves at www.rashmi-vasudeva.com
This clock has always been ticking and now even the Nobel Prize committee has acknowledged it — a sort of vindication for sleep scientists who have been chanting for long about how disrupting our body clocks can have adverse impacts on our overall health.
The Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded this year to three American scientists for their discoveries on how circadian rhythms run our life. The Nobel Committee, in its announcement, acknowledged how “with exquisite precision” our inner clock adapts to our physiology and regulates critical functions such as behaviour, hormonal levels, body temperature and metabolism.
Long mired in medical jargon such as “oscillating internal cellular network”, not many know that it is our internal clock that determines our level of hunger or fatigue, our ovulation calendars, which part of the day we are most receptive to knowledge, and even when we are likely to get a heart attack.
In effect, human bodies are natural time-keepers and we will pay the price if we don't sleep (or eat) regularly. An occasional jet-lag or a midnight binge is all fine but problems begin when disrespecting our clocks becomes a way of life (as it has for many of us). In fact, circadian scientists argue that this 'de-synchronization' of our internal clocks is the underlying cause for many chronic diseases we face today, including Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular ailments, obesity and even autism and dementia.
Chronobiologist Dr Benjamin Smarr of UC Berkeley says scientists like him are excited (and rightly so) that with the Nobel's nod, circadian rhythms are finally getting their long-due recognition. He hopes more people will begin to understand how our internal clock is integral to every part of our life and how messing it up can wreak havoc. The study of the biology of time has just begun to expand and is likely to have significant impact on predictive medicine, especially in the fields of fertility, sleep and stress.
The Nobel Prize has certainly opened a door.