They sUntitled design-41ay there’s a time for everything – though you might not know it from looking at a pill-bottle label. Most say how many pills to take but not when to take them. That’s a problem, “because symptoms and treatment efficacy vary by time of day,” says University of Texas at Austin biomedical engineering professor Michael Smolensky. Strokes, for instance, tend to occur in the morning; asthma usually flares up at night. “If you take your medication at the wrong time,” he says, “it may not work as well… or you could experience more side effects and toxicity.”

Humans and animals have a set of internal clocks in their brains, organs, tissues, and cells that naturally sync with Earth’s 24-hour light-dark cycle. Timing medications to those circadian rhythms is called chronotherapy – a field still foreign to many prescribers. Circadian biologist Georgios Paschos of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine suggests a remedy: “more clinical trials that investigate the optimal timing of drug administration.”

Jeremy Berlin

National Geographic

June 2016


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