When we think of taking time to heal, most of us imagine resting and recouping. According to recent studies, our bodies might be better equipped to patch themselves up during daylight hours than they are at night. It all comes down to our bodies’ day-night cycles.
Rhythm of the night
Our bodies are tuned to a specific cycle that’s linked to night and day called a circadian rhythm. A body’s circadian rhythm is metered by the hypothalamus, which is the area of our brain responsible for managing the body’s involuntary functions.
This innate sense of day and night is associated with the rest of the body’s ability to tell when you should be awake and when you should be resting. Recent studies show that this anatomical clock might extend beyond the hypothalamus and into individual cells.
Rise and shine
According to the latest research, our bodies can heal almost twice as fast when we’re injured during the day than when we get hurt at night. Cellular first-responders called fibroblasts migrate to the site of an injury and secrete chemicals to rebuild the damaged tissue.
These fibroblasts are powered by a protein called actin. Higher levels of actin mean faster response time for the fibroblasts and a quicker start to healing. New research shows that actin levels are significantly lower at night than they are during the day, meaning injuries sustained during the “night” portion of the circadian cycle don’t start healing as quickly as injuries sustained during the day.
New light for medicine
With this new understanding of how the body’s healing response is influenced by the perceived time of day, medical scientists hope to find ways to make recovery faster. Surgeries can be adjusted to better fit a patient’s circadian rhythm, which could help them on their way to a speedy recovery.
Additionally, new medication could be in our future that toys with the body’s clock to aid post-surgery healing. This new research opens many doors for improvements in patient recovery techniques in the near future.