Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You're So Tired

Overview

Early birds and night owls are born, not made. Sleep patterns may be the most obvious manifestation of the highly individualized biological clocks we inherit, but these clocks also regulate bodily functions from digestion to hormone levels to cognition. Living at odds with our internal timepieces, Till Roenneberg shows, can make us chronically sleep deprived and more likely to smoke, gain weight, feel depressed, fall ill, and fail geometry. By understanding and respecting our ...

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Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You're So Tired

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Overview

Early birds and night owls are born, not made. Sleep patterns may be the most obvious manifestation of the highly individualized biological clocks we inherit, but these clocks also regulate bodily functions from digestion to hormone levels to cognition. Living at odds with our internal timepieces, Till Roenneberg shows, can make us chronically sleep deprived and more likely to smoke, gain weight, feel depressed, fall ill, and fail geometry. By understanding and respecting our internal time, we can live better.

Internal Time combines storytelling with accessible science tutorials to explain how our internal clocks work-for example, why morning classes are so unpopular and why "lazy" adolescents are wise to avoid them. We learn why the constant twilight of our largely indoor lives makes us dependent on alarm clocks and tired, and why social demands and work schedules lead to a social jet lag that compromises our daily functioning.

Many of the factors that make us early or late "chronotypes" are beyond our control, but that doesn't make us powerless. Roenneberg recommends that the best way to sync our internal time with our external environment and feel better is to get more sunlight. Such simple steps as cycling to work and eating breakfast outside may be the tickets to a good night's sleep, better overall health, and less grouchiness in the morning.

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Editorial Reviews

New Scientist

In Internal Time, Till Roenneberg, a chronobiologist at the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, takes readers on a journey through this mysterious area of science. He explores why some people are larks and others owls, why jet lag can be so debilitating to travelers, and why teenagers struggle to get out of bed in the morning...Roenneberg is a knowledgeable guide, with a talent for making difficult concepts clear and convincing...This is a fascinating introduction to an important topic, which will appeal to anyone who wishes to delve deep into the world of chronobiology, or simply wonders why they struggle to get a good night's sleep.
— Richard Wiseman

Nature
Time really is of the essence, says medical psychologist Till Roenneberg. By neglecting our body clocks--which rarely run in synchrony with the crazily cranked-up pace of modern life--we can develop "social jetlag," endangering our health and careers. Roenneberg has built his book on decades of research in everything from fungi and single-celled organisms to humans. In brilliantly minimalist terms, he explains the temporal mismatches behind teen exhaustion, early birds and night owls, and sleep phobia.
Wall Street Journal

Internal Time is a cautionary tale—actually a series of 24 tales, not coincidentally. Roenneberg ranges widely from the inner workings of biological rhythms to their social implications, illuminating each scientific tutorial with an anecdote inspired by clinical research...Written with grace and good humor, Internal Time is a serious work of science incorporating the latest research in chronobiology...[A] compelling volume.
— A. Roger Ekirch

Times Higher Education

Till Roenneberg's book is an engaging and informative layman's introduction to circadian science and its implications for contemporary humans...By integrating quality scientific exposition with well-rounded human vignettes, Roenneberg's book shows how sophisticated human behaviors arise partly from our embodied earthly nature.
— Greg Murray

New York

Internal Time made me think deeply about what it means to be a time-bound organism: about the ways we live in time and the ways time lives in us. It is, in an unusually literal sense, a book about what makes us tick.
— Kathryn Schulz

Telegraph

A brilliant book.
— William Leith

Wilson Quarterly

Fascinating...Other books have dealt with our biological clocks, but Roenneberg focuses on the ways in which societal pressures seem to be leading us to disregard our clocks, at considerable cost.
— Rob Dunn

Martin Zatz
Internal Time is an accessible, up-to-date overview of a subject that is important to all of us. With its remarkable depth and breadth of coverage, this book should be of interest to a wide and diverse audience.
Russell G. Foster
This is a wonderful book from a gifted scientist, thinker and writer that provides the reader with the rare opportunity to discover something new about themselves and the world in which they live.
New Scientist - Richard Wiseman
In Internal Time, Till Roenneberg, a chronobiologist at the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, takes readers on a journey through this mysterious area of science. He explores why some people are larks and others owls, why jet lag can be so debilitating to travelers, and why teenagers struggle to get out of bed in the morning...Roenneberg is a knowledgeable guide, with a talent for making difficult concepts clear and convincing...This is a fascinating introduction to an important topic, which will appeal to anyone who wishes to delve deep into the world of chronobiology, or simply wonders why they struggle to get a good night's sleep.
Wall Street Journal - A. Roger Ekirch
Internal Time is a cautionary tale--actually a series of 24 tales, not coincidentally. Roenneberg ranges widely from the inner workings of biological rhythms to their social implications, illuminating each scientific tutorial with an anecdote inspired by clinical research...Written with grace and good humor, Internal Time is a serious work of science incorporating the latest research in chronobiology...[A] compelling volume.
Times Higher Education - Greg Murray
Till Roenneberg's book is an engaging and informative layman's introduction to circadian science and its implications for contemporary humans...By integrating quality scientific exposition with well-rounded human vignettes, Roenneberg's book shows how sophisticated human behaviors arise partly from our embodied earthly nature.
New York - Kathryn Schulz
Internal Time made me think deeply about what it means to be a time-bound organism: about the ways we live in time and the ways time lives in us. It is, in an unusually literal sense, a book about what makes us tick.
Telegraph - William Leith
A brilliant book.
Wilson Quarterly - Rob Dunn
Fascinating...Other books have dealt with our biological clocks, but Roenneberg focuses on the ways in which societal pressures seem to be leading us to disregard our clocks, at considerable cost.
Nature
Time really is of the essence, says medical psychologist Till Roenneberg. By neglecting our body clocks--which rarely run in synchrony with the crazily cranked-up pace of modern life--we can develop "social jetlag," endangering our health and careers. Roenneberg has built his book on decades of research in everything from fungi and single-celled organisms to humans. In brilliantly minimalist terms, he explains the temporal mismatches behind teen exhaustion, early birds and night owls, and sleep phobia.
Library Journal
A recognized authority on the subject of chronobiology, Roenneberg (medical psychology, Ludwig-Maximilians Univ., Munich) argues that all people are born with chronotypes and that by understanding how their own internal clocks work they will be better able to live in their environments. If people remain unaware of their biological clocks, he argues, they will struggle with chronic sleep deprivation and will more likely feel ill, smoke, gain weight, and suffer from depression. Roenneberg suggests getting more sunlight and spending time outside as possible solutions. He also writes about the problems with shift work and how it affects people's lives. The book contains some charts and graphs as well as extensive endnotes. VERDICT Not many recent titles cover this topic (outside of Hugh D. Piggins's 2011 Chronobiology), and this is a welcome addition. Scholarly in tone, this book is recommended for academics and those particularly interested in this field.—Karen Sutherland, White Oak Lib. Dist., Romeoville, IL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674065857
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2012
  • Edition description: Translatio
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 637,237
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Till Roenneberg is Professor at the Institute of Medical Psychology at the Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 15:When will my organs arrive?


In our modern world of traveling, millions of people have suffered from jet lag at least once in their life: when visiting friends or when taking their vacations in distant countries. People whose jobs take them to many different parts of the world find themselves in this lousy state with sad regularity. But what are the symptoms that characterize jetlag a bit more accurately than just feeling lousy? The most conspicuous symptom is tiredness. However, that state is not necessarily specific for jet lag. If someone traveled from Helsinki to Cape Town, he or she might also feel severely tired without having ever left the time zone, merely due to the length of exhausting trip (not to mention that this traveler would also travel from winter to summer or from autumn to spring or vice versa). The major difference between traveling long distances within time zones, opposed to across time zones, is that the passenger from Helsinki would have no problems in sleeping at the right time of night in Cape Town and would thus recover quite readily from the exhausting voyage. But merely traveling long distances across time zones also does not necessarily throw the traveler into the state of jet lag. In the old days, before airplanes carried the travelers across the Atlantic, they may have suffered from seasickness but certainly not from jet lag. As the word says, it takes a jet to elicit this state because the main cause for this syndrome is the speed at which we travel from one time zone to another, from one time of dawn to another, from one time of dusk to another, and from one different social timing to another. Our body clocks can cope with the slow changes of dawn and dusk we would experience when traveling by ship. If we took a boat from Europe to America, it would actually be a bit like living on Mars: every evening the sun would set and every morning it would rise a bit later, making the days longer than 24 hours. Of course, we would much more easily synchronize to these longer days if we spent some time on deck—especially in the evenings—thereby exposing ourselves to bright light during the time of our body when light expands the internal day. If we took a boat in the other direction, from America to Europe, we would live on yet another planet with days shorter than 24 hours by traveling against the rotation of our globe. If the boat didn’t cruise too fast across the Atlantic, these shorter days would still be within the range of entrainment of our body clock so that our internal time would arrive in synchrony with the external time. According to the principles of entrainment, we would become slightly earlier chronotypes when traveling west and slightly later chronotypes when traveling east.

However, when it takes us less than a day to travel across half of the globe, our body clock is left behind. The shortest flight from Boston to Tokyo takes 15 hours and 25 minutes. If Oscar and Jerry had left Boston’s Logan airport at 8 A.M., it would already be 9 P.M. in Tokyo and they would arrive at Narita airport half an hour after noon local time (it would actually be a whole date-day later since they would have crossed the date line). Their internal time would, however, be set to thirty minutes before midnight—approximately half a day out of synch.

Another symptom of jet lag is nighttime insomnia despite utter exhaustion. Based on the calculations above, this is not surprising. Unless we have traveled to our holiday destination, we are expected to be active when our body clock is on its way to bed and have to try and catch up on sleep when our internal alarm clock “announces” the time to get up. As a rule of thumb, it takes the body clock approximately one day per travelled time zone to adjust to the new cycle of light and darkness, so that Bostonians traveling to Japan would need approximately 12 days until they functioned normally again. The difficulty of not being able to sleep adds to the exhaustion of the trip itself. Since this state may continue for many days after arrival at the destination, the traveler cannot compensate for the exhaustion experienced during the long flight.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Worlds Apart 8

2 Of Early Birds and Long Sleepers 16

3 Counting Sheep 24

4 A Curious Astronomer 31

5 The Lost Days 36

6 The Periodic Shift Worker 47

7 The Fast Hamster 60

8 Dawn at the Gym 66

9 The Elusive Transcript 75

10 Temporal Ecology 81

11 Wait until Dark 90

12 The End of Adolescence 96

13 What a Waste of Time! 106

14 Days on Other Planets 114

15 When Will My Organs Arrive? 129

16 The Scissors of Sleep 139

17 Early Socialists, Late Capitalists 152

18 Constant Twilight 163

19 From Frankfurt to Morocco and Back 173

20 Light at Night 184

21 Partnership Timing 193

22 A Clock for All Seasons 202

23 Professional Selection 214

24 The Nocturnal Bottleneck 223

Notes 235

Acknowledgments 263

Index 265

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