Chronobiology

Last Updated: November 25, 2018

Definition - What does Chronobiology mean?

Chronobiology is the field of science concerned with the study of living organisms' reaction to cyclical rhythms and time. It is the study of biological rhythms. Medical Chronobiology is focused on circadian rhythms and other bioperiodic cycles that influence human health. Chronobiology is of use to employers when designing work shift start and end times as well as the duties to be performed during overnight hours. Ergonomists also take chronobiology into account when designing appropriate lighting, such as selecting light that mimics a natural sunlight spectrum rather than flourescent lighting when attempting to offset fatigue from overnight work shifts.

WorkplaceTesting explains Chronobiology

Many functions of living organisms are cyclical in nature and respond to factors such as the solar and lunar cycles. Chronobiology is the study of these cycles and their impact on various organisms. The three primary chronobiological rhythms are the infradian, ultradian, and circadian rhythms.

Infradian rhythms are those such as seasonal migrations or tidal patterns, which last more than 24 hours and may repeat infrequently. Ultradian rhythms are shorter than 24 hours and often involve physical or mental activities. Examples of ultradian rhythms include digestion, concentration peaks, and breathing. Circadian rhythms are based on a 24-hour cycle and include rhythms such as a plant's response to light and the human sleep cycle.

Studies have indicated that these bioperiodic cycles can affect appetite, response to medications, neurological disorders, and other health conditions. Disruptions of the body's natural rhythm, in particular, the 24-hour circadian rhythm, can be a factor in individual health and cognitive abilities.

In the workplace setting, insufficient or ineffective sleep caused by disruptions of the body's biological rhythm has been correlated with the occurrence of accidents and injuries. Researchers are increasingly looking at workplace scheduling that disrupts the body's natural sleep cycle as a risk factor for individual worker health and workplace health and safety.

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