Humans didn’t have to adapt to a 24-hour clock–our bodily processes developed because of the daily rotation of our planet from sunlight into darkness. And science has only recently realized the crucial role that our “circadian clock”–molecules in our cells controlled by nerve cells in our brain–plays in fundamental processes, ranging from the way we metabolize food to how likely we are to contract infections.
“Discoveries around the circadian clock in the past 10 to 20 years are mind-boggling,” says Paolo Sassone-Corsi, a leading researcher in this field, and director of the Center for Epigenetics and Metabolism at the University of California, Irvine. Medicine is showing how modern behaviours may be increasing our risk for diseases. Here’s how to set your body’s clock for better health.