A new study shows that the world’s most popular drug, coffee, commonly known for keeping us awake, can also interfere with our body’s inner clock and readjust our sense of time. The study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday.
Kenneth Wright, sleep physiologist at the University of Colorado, said that the circadian clock is much more than just sleep and wake. The circadian rhythm expert believes that the circadian clock is present in almost all the cells throughout our body, including the muscle cells and the fat cells. The circadian clock can be present in your brain, as well as in your heart. The physiologist said that any fluctuation in the circadian clock could be associated with every condition of the physique, such as obesity or cancer.
Researches found pieces of evidence in green algae and some type of sea snails that hint caffeine could change cellular timekeeping. What Wright was curious about was whether if caffeine has the same effect on people.
His team got some participants to do a 49-day study which tested sleeping patterns. He and his colleagues tested the volunteers for melatonin, the hormone that surges when the human body is in sleeping state.
The study found that melatonin was delayed by about 40 minutes when an amount of caffeine equal to the one which is found in a double espresso was taken three hours before bedtime. Wrighter was stunned to find that caffeine is shifting our clock later. In a similar study, a team of researchers tested how the body responds to bright light exposure, but the results were only half as strong as the study on caffeine.
Wrighter adds that a circadian shift of a few hours could make it really difficult for some people to get up the next morning. Researchers haven’t yet tested whether drinking caffeine during the day would be also messing with our cellular timekeeping. John O’Neill, biologist at the Medical Research Council of Cambridge, UK, said that consuming caffeine more than six hours before bedtime hours would probably not have the same effect, but he suggests that this should be tested as well.
O’Neill recommends people to think about when they are planning on consuming caffeine. He adds that a lifestyle with irregular sleeping habits and poor quality sleep is bad for the organism, because the circadian body will be out of sync with the one of the natural world.
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