Sleeping Patterns Are Governed by Light

Overview of biological circadian clock in humans. Biological clock affects the daily rhythm of many physiological processes. This diagram depicts the circadian patterns typical of someone who rises early in morning, eats lunch around noon, and sleeps at night (10 p.m.). Although circadian rhythms tend to be synchronized with cycles of light and dark, other factors - such as ambient temperature, meal times, stress and exercise - can influence the timing as well.

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Your biological clock is not the only thing that reminds you to shut eye every 24 hours; a new study has found that it’s actually light that governs your sleeping patterns.

Your eyes use light to reset your biological clock through a mechanism that is separate from your ability to see, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found.

Researchers genetically modified laboratory mice so that a particular set of retinal ganglion cells — the ones that receive input from the rods and cones of the eyes and send information to your brain — no longer functioned. The mice were still able to use light to see normally, but had great difficulty synchronizing their circadian rhythms to light or dark cycles.

The findings suggest that people who have trouble sleeping or seasonal depression may be having a malfunction that is contributing to their inability to detect light, which in turn may adversely affect their biological clocks.

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Sources:

* The Time of India April 29, 2008

* Nature April 23, 2008

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