Though the light-based clock serves as the body’s master clock, regulating circadian rhythms, a recent discovery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center may have uncovered a way to override that clock.
It was found that in order to survive, animals have developed a secondary “food-related” internal clock to switch their sleep and wake schedules in order to avoid starvation. This suggests that by adjusting eating schedules, humans can better adjust to changes in time zones and nighttime schedules that leave them feeling groggy.
“We discovered that a single cycle of starvation followed by refeeding turns on the clock, so that it hijacks all of the circadian rhythms onto a new time zone that corresponds with food availability,” says senior author Clifford Saper, MD, PhD.
Travelers might be able to adjust to time changes more easily by utilizing this second food-related internal clock. “A period of fasting with no food at all for 16 hours is enough to engage this new clock,” says Saper.
The findings are published in the May 23 edition of the journal Science.