The clock seems to rule people’s lives, dictating their daily rhythms. They rise at a certain time, eat at regular intervals and can have a set bedtime every night. Even our bodies perform differently at different times of day, with some hormone levels increasing as we sleep, for example, and blood pressure fluctuating depending on the time of day. Chronotherapy works on the principle that living by the clock isn’t just for daily activities, but can also have benefits for certain health problems, such as asthma and cancer. Some medicine can be timed for greater effectiveness, and some mental health problems are also greatly affected by timing. Some people who suffer from bipolar disorder, for example, have been helped by a type of chronotherapy that resets their bodies’ natural rhythms, or their body clocks.
There are a number of proven principles behind chronotherapy, including the body’s own circadian rhythm. A person’s temperature fluctuates predictably throughout the day, and a woman’s temperature rises when she ovulates. Specialists who study sports performance have noted that muscle strength is greater in the afternoon than in the morning. Even the compounds found in human breast milk are different at different times of day. Men are affected by the hormone testosterone found in their bodies at higher levels in the morning, and the level dipping later in the day.
Chronotherapy is the act of aligning the body’s natural rhythms with the treatment a patient needs, whether it pertains to psychiatric conditions, high blood pressure, endocrine systems or other medical problems. Chronotherapy can also affect the amount of medication a patient receives. Sometimes a lesser dosage of certain types of medications is called for if the body’s clock is optimized. Some doctors like the advantage presented by chronotherapy because they have seen patients adhere better to their medication schedules when the drugs work better, and there is also sometimes an added benefit of fewer uncomfortable side effects.
The role of chronotherapy is most prominent in the field of drug therapy, with doctors prescribing medications based on not only a disease or condition, but also on the time of day. Some drugs formulations have changed to better time the release of their active ingredients, and these are called chronotherapeutics. Some drugs used to battle cancer through chemotherapy are more effective at certain times of day and their toxicity is reduced.