back to article Boffins learn to adjust body clocks

Good news today for sufferers from jet lag, bipolar depression, interstellar or interplanetary colonists and others plagued by disorders relating to the circadian rhythm - or body clock. Top boffins have announced today that they have developed a method of restarting stopped body clocks and perhaps of regulating the rate at …


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  1. Guido Esperanto

    like a lot of great discoveries

    I wonder if the military are wondering how to weaponise it.

    1. genome


      gas the enemy with it so they live in 10-minute long days?

      zzzz-COFFEE--zzzzzzz-COFFEE NOW--zzz

  2. Lottie

    But I thought..

    ... the hole idea of IT was to brag about how knackered and lagged you were after a whole night of coding.

    I remember at uni, the prase "I need to get my body clock back in synch" (meaning take the day off and stay in bed wanking) was used as a sort of badge of honour by those with small epeens.

    Maqke it easier to regulate and the whole IT world won't have an excuse to be cranky and drink too much red bull.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge


      Having been awake 112 of the past 135 hours, I resent everything you just said. The only problem is that I am too exhausted and confused to understand why. Aw, you know what? Screw it. Job’s done. I’m burning my PC and going to live in the woods*. See ya'll on Monday.

      *An expression coined by another commenter which I have shameless appropriated because it was awesome, and applied to my rapidly degenerating general view of the rewards of being an IT worker and/or associated with just about anything on the Internet.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Drugs not necessary

    Skip a few meals and then eat breakfast at the prescribed local time, that will reset your clock to local morning just nicely. But I imagine that the pain of hunger will make an expensive and possibly risky drug far more attractive to The Teeming Millions...

    1. frank ly

      More details please

      That sounds interesting and may be useful for me. Is this something that 'works for you', or has it been observed and noted generally?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Reset clock?

      "Skip a few meals and then eat breakfast at the prescribed local time, that will reset your clock to local morning just nicely"

      For who?

      I doubt that, meals haven't any effect on when you feel sleepy or wake, thus can't have that kind of effect either.

      1. Gavin King

        Reset Clock!

        I do distinctly remember reading something to the same effect: Before travelling, start having breakfast at the local time of your destination for a few days so that the body thinks that is the "right" time.

        I've never travelled enough to try it out, but it seems to make some sort of sense.

        1. Mike Flugennock

          re: Reset Clock!

          I don't know if just having breakfast at destination local morning would really be enough, especially for a sporadic breakfast-eater like myself. I'd think that going on a sleep/wake cycle based on destination local time a few days before departure would work better.

          Interesting suggestion, though; not that I expect to be flying to South Africa again anytime soon (see my comment a ways down the scroll), but if I do, I'll give that a try.

  4. Psmiffy

    Weapons etc

    If used differently, this could be used to allow people to get a 48 or even a 72 hour day, as some people with a certain genetic disorder have (I can't remember the name of it). This would probably allow soldiers etc to go for a few days before needing to sleep.

    Not sure how this would help anyone.

    Conversely if you shorten someones clock cycle you could get them into a screwy irregular sleep pattern making them tired and out of it of you happened to want to attack them.

    Just saying is all.

    1. Dave 64

      @Psmiffy / Weapons, etc.

      Been done - benzedrine was regularly used by commandos and air crew during WW2.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    REAL hackers...

    sync their body clocks with NTP

  6. Joefish

    Skipping meals until breakfast...

    Has worked for some, including whichever bland female BBC reporter tried it on some programme or other. But extra starvation doesn't appeal to me. Far more effective has been to just stay up through the night-flight and do some coding on the EEE I carry in my (rather large) leg-pocket. Then just sleep normally the next night. Anyone who's genuinely done an all-nighter knows your bodyclock just hangs if you don't sleep. You might be a little tired, but you won't have trouble fitting back into a daily schedule.

  7. jake Silver badge

    Speaking personally, try melatonin.

    I was a global network troubleshooter from the early '80s thru' the late '90s ... at any given hour I could expect to be flying off to anywhere on the planet. 0.25mg melatonin 45 minutes before "local bedtime" on the first night out, and I was fine for the duration of the trip ... until the next timezone. Lather, rinse, repeat ... I experienced no ill effects, could wake up immediately if required, and apparently it's not addictive (all unlike alcohol, sleeping pills, etc.).

    Yes, I know, "studies indicate", yadda yadda yadda. I am not a doctor, this is not a prescription, might be illegal in your jurisdiction, etc.

  8. Lghost
    Jobs Horns

    Ancient upper/lower nile time god ?

    In general, the body clock needs to "tick" once every 24 horus to match up with an Earthly day as experienced in the vicinity of any given meridian.

    jobsness always reminds me of some ancient cu(l)t god figure à la "the mummy" ..

    and yes... I k(l)ow my spell checker is broke(l)

    1. Nigel 11

      Body clock synchs on daylight

      Most people's body clocks free-run at a longer period than 24 hours, a few free-run shorter. (I seem to recall 26 hours is average, anything from 22 to 30 is normal). This is established by experiments where volunteers live indoors for weeks or months, deprived of any clues as to what time of day it might be outside.

      Daylight causes our clocks to fall into 24-hour synch. To a lesser extent, so do man-made clocks and scheduling activity around them. A few unfortunates have medical problems that appear to reflect a built-in clock that won't synchronize to 24 hours.

      I've always suspected that those infuriating individuals who expect everyone to be up, bright and shiny at dawn, are those with the 22-hour internal clocks!

  9. Bernard Lyons


    Let's spare a thought here for those poor miners in Chile who won't be seeing the sun again until Christmas or so. I hope their rescuers try to keep them on a 24-hour cycle.

  10. Mike Flugennock


    Never mind that; back in college, during the Late Mesozoic (late 1970s) I was able to easily reset my "internal clock" with small judiciously-applied doses of LSD. No, really.

    But, seriously...

    Most of my air travel these days is to and from the West Coast of Mexico, once a year, during which I cross a grand total of one time zone, so no chance of serious jet lag.

    However, the wife and I have just recently returned from two weeks in South Africa -- approximately 18 hours' flight each way between Johannesburg and Washington, DC. Going there wasn't too tough to deal with (aside from the ordeal of 18 hours flying over water), but coming back was a whole different story. Left Jo'burg in late-ish afternoon Friday, arrived Washington DC shortly before sunrise Saturday, having had only three hours' sleep -- and really piss-poor quality sleep at that. My waking state on arrival home was about what it usually is when I've had to be up at 5:30 or 6am EDT, and I made it through to mid-afternoon OK, but around 4pm, it was like hitting a wall. I desperately craved a good nap, but I knew I wouldn't be able to go to bed at my normal time (around 2am), so I made a pot of coffee and slogged through the rest of the day and evening.

    Problem is, the wife and I have found ourselves snapping wide awake, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, at around 4:30am every morning since Saturday (when we arrived home), so there we were having our regular coffee and morning news and feeding the cat at 5am (poor confused kitty). Our sleep patterns are still a bit distorted nearly a week after flying home, though we're waking at slightly more normal hours (6:30 or 7am). However, I'm still nodding at around 7pm. We sure could've used some of that sleep-pattern "boffinry" then (or, in my case, a quarter blotter of American Beauty).

    It doesn't help that I already keep what a friend of mine calls "hacker's hours", so flying east for eighteen hours from Jo'burg to DC hasn't helped things any.

  11. Mike Flugennock

    JPL/MER flight control teams...

    ...were, as I recall, living on Martian time for the first few months of the mission; JPL had even gone to the trouble of having a bunch of special watches built which ran on Martian time. A Martian day -- or "sol" as they call them -- isn't much longer than an Earth day, but just enough longer that over time, the MER flight controllers' sleep patterns were fairly weirded out.

  12. Synchronous clocks

    Synchronous clock

    Synchronous clock, life is not clear direction should be.

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