Chronobiology: Circadian Rhythm Disorder

chronoChronobiology simply refers to the study of how the brain’s internal clock interacts with the daily alteration of light and dark in the environment, according to the University of Columbia’s School of Psychiatry. The field of chronobiology is an interdisciplinary field of study, combining aspects of molecular genetics, anatomy, physiology, endocrinology, behavior, physics, cell biology, neurology, and chemistry.

Light and dark are the predominant cues the human brain uses to keep in synch with the outside world. As you are no doubt aware, there is no shortness of regular cycles of light and dark in our world. That said, today’s society with its more indoor lifestyles, tends to spend significantly less time outdoors than previous generations, cutting ourselves off from these vital cues or links that keep the brain in synch with the world around us. When these cues of light and dark are absent or weak, our circadian rhythms of body temperature, hormones, sleep and alertness — and yes, even mood — get out of adjustment with earth’s rotation about the sun, says Dr. Michael Terman of UCSP. This leaves us open to “down” moods.

Other examples of chronobiology include hibernation in certain animal species and photosynthesis on plant life. The most vital rhythm in chronobiology is the Circadian Rhythm, the approximately 24 hour cycle of light and dark by which living creatures synch with their environment. Circadian is a term meaning “approximately a day”, simply enough. There are three basic circadian rhythms: Nocturnal, or mostly active at night; Diurnal, or mostly active during the day, and Crepuscular, or mostly active around dusk or dawn. Most of us are aware that there are “morning people” and “night owls”; these are examples of differing circadian rhythms within the population.

When normal rhythms are disturbed, whether by environment, lifestyle, or physiology a living being may be plagued by insomnia or other disruptions in sleep patterns. In some neurological patients, for example those with Multiple Sclerosis, the need to sleep may be almost insatiable; in others the awake portion of the cycle can last for literally several days, until the body can no longer sustain and “crashes”.

There are other rhythms of lesser importance, the most discussed for our purposes being Lunar rhythms. There is much discussion in the field of psychology and behavioral sciences of the effect of lunar phases on human, and some animal – wolves for example, behavior.

Treatment: Dr. Terman’s methods used in clinical chronobiology include timed exposure to bright artificial light to reduce insomnia or sleep-awake disturbances due to shift work, and the use of a spring-like lighting environment to fight winter depression. New applications include light therapy for chronic depression and depression during pregnancy. In some cases, medications are used to fight fatigue during the day, allowing the patient a greater likelihood of sleep at night.

Relevance to National Paranormal Society: In many cases where the awake/asleep cycles are disrupted to the extent described above, intense fatigue or insomnia result. With either of these conditions over a period of time, such issues as hallucinations or paranoia may manifest. These may compromise the credibility of claims and should be considered when preparing for an investigation.

Lisa Shaner-Hilty

Lisa Shaner-Hilty

I am a supervisor for several programs assisting individuals with intellectual and mental challenges. I have 2 Masters Degrees from Penn State in Communication Disorders and Psychology. My first experiences with the paranormal were around age 5. I’ve been fascinated ever since. I have been an investigator for over 10 years (first 5 years with a team, then leaving to form my own more than 5 years ago, and have taught classes on investigation, evidence analysis (especially EVP) and debunking at local community college. I also have abilities, some of which began at age 5 and others around puberty. Therefore my fields of major interest are investigation and psychic and empath. While I am open to considering all aspect and viewpoints, I am dedicated to seeking natural explanations first before anything is considered evidence.
Lisa Shaner-Hilty

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