How our body’s circadian clocks affect our health beyond sleep

“Everything cannot happen at once,” says Satchin Panda, a circadian biologist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. This is true when it comes to experiences in the world, and it is also true when it comes to our bodies.

We cannot fall asleep and wake up at the same time, nor sleep and do heavy-duty digesting. Our bodies need time to rest and repair, and so it works on a set clock called the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm has gotten more notice recently — after all, last year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine went to three scientists who discovered this day-night cycle. But popular knowledge focuses on how the circadian rhythm affects how we sleep, ignoring many of the other ways this cycle runs our lives.

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