Dr. Alethea Fleming, ND

Circling in on the Circadian Rhythm Connection

New research in circadian rhythms is unveiling the connection between our internal biological clocks and much more than time zones. We now know that disruptions in circadian rhythm can affect obesity, mood, insomnia, Alzheimer’s, immune function, insulin secretion, cancer, irritable bowel, and stress. There is even interesting research going on currently that may change the way we administer certain medications, especially those used in cancer treatment, to certain times of day for greater efficacy.

Applying the “social jetlag” theory

One more immediately applicable theory is the concept of “social jetlag” which is a term that describes the discrepancy between circadian and social clocks, such as a typical work-week schedule and a weekend schedule. If you habitually go to bed by 10 PM on the weekends so you can get up at 6 AM on the weekdays, but shift that by 2 hours to go to bed at midnight and get up at 8 AM on weekends, you may be doing yourself more harm than realized. So far the research around this shows the largest impact (no pun intended) on Body Mass Index (BMI). The more social jetlag (and correspondingly other circadian disruptions) the higher the BMI.

Keep to the Sleep schedule for optimal health benefits

We’ve long heard that keeping a consistent sleep schedule, no matter the day of the week, is helpful for insomnia, but now we have further reason to be regular in our sleep rhythms if it helps limit weight gain.

For more information about the effect of circadian rhythms on health the 25 November 2016 issue of Science magazine has a special section and multiple interesting articles to satisfy curiosity.


Dr. Alethea Fleming, ND is a passionate advocate for naturopathic geriatric medicine. A 2007 Bastyr University graduate, she also earned a certificate in Gerontology from the University of Washington. Dr. Fleming is the owner and lead physician of the Vital Aging Clinic in Anacortes, Washington where she provides primary care to all adults as well as adjunctive geriatric care. Dr. Fleming is active in multiple community organizations as well as a member of WANP, AANP and OncANP. In her off hours, Dr. Fleming can be found hiking the beautiful trails of Fidalgo Island, spending time with her wonderful husband and son, or with her nose firmly in a good book.

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