Book Report: The Power of When

The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype–and the Best Time to Eat Lunch, Ask for a Raise, Have Sex, Write a Novel, Take Your Meds, and More by Michael Breus and Mehmet C. Oz

Sleep is something I enjoy studying very much. It is fascinating how much biology it impacts and how we can impact it at various levels. Dr. Breus explains that we are all hardwired to have unique circadian rhythms, termed chronotypes.

First a quick definition about the part of the brain that directs our circadian experience: ” This precisely engineered timekeeper is called your circadian pacemaker, or biological clock. Specifically, it’s a group of nerves called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), in the hypothalamus, right above the pituitary gland.” Much work is being done to understand more fully the complex workings of the SCN, and 2018 has had a number of interesting scientific papers published on this topic.

Another very helpful quote I saved from this book was how air travel impacts us: “It takes a day for the body to adjust to a one-hour time zone difference, and, on horseback or in a coach, it’d take about that long to go that far. Starting in the mid-twentieth century, in the blink of an eye, evolutionarily speaking, we could travel multiple time zones in a few hours, leaving bio-time lagging behind.” This helps explain what is behind jet lag other than just being tired.

Then a few other Bio-Time related tidbits:

  • Treating a disease such as cancer on bio-time can save your life. In 2009, researchers from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine experimented with mice to determine if timing of medication affected the speed of DNA repair to damaged cells. They took extracts of the mouse brains at various times and found that when medication was taken at night, DNA repaired itself seven times faster, in correspondence with the circadian rising and falling levels of a certain enzyme. The researchers theorized that, to minimize side effects and maximize effectiveness, chemo drugs should be given to patients when their cells are better able to repair themselves.
  • Thinking on bio-time can make you smarter and more creative. In 2011, a team of psychologists from Michigan State University and Albion College asked their study subjects to solve problems, some analytical and some that required insight, at different times throughout the day. The subjects solved creative problems better during their non-optimal times, when they were tired and groggy. They solved analytical problems at their optimal times, when they were wide-awake and alert. The researchers concluded that creative and analytical thinking operates on bio-time. If you set out to solve a certain type of problem, you’ll do better at certain times.
  • Living on bio-time can make you happier. In 2015, researchers at Copenhagen University Hospital, in Denmark, treated seventy-five patients with major depression through the use of either daily chronotherapy (bright light exposure and a consistent wake time) or exercise. Sixty-two percent of the chronotherapy patients went into remission in six months. Only 38 percent of the exercisers did.

Now on to the genetic piece “Remember, your chronotype is genetic—determined specifically by the PER3 gene. If you have a long PER3 gene, you need at least seven hours of deep sleep to function, and tend to be an early riser. If you have a short PER3, you can get by on light or little sleep, and you tend to be a late riser. It’s likely that at least one of your parents had the same chronotype as you.” He breaks the four classical chronotypes as follows:

“1. Dolphins. Real dolphins sleep with only half of their brain at a time (which is why they’re called unihemispheric sleepers). The other half is awake and alert, concentrating on swimming and looking for predators. This name fits insomniacs well: intelligent, neurotic light sleepers with a low sleep drive. 2. Lions. Real lions are morning hunters at the top of the food chain. This name fits morning-oriented driven optimists with a medium sleep drive. 3. Bears. Real bears are go-with-the-flow ramblers, good sleepers, and anytime hunters. This name fits fun-loving, outgoing people who prefer a solar-based schedule and have a high sleep drive. 4. Wolves. Real wolves are nocturnal hunters. This name fits night-oriented creative extroverts with a medium sleep drive.”

The book goes on to recommend based on each chronotype what the best times to sleep, work out, have sex, drink caffeine, and many other functions typically are based on this genetic predisposition. I personally am a Lion (early riser) and paid attention to many of the timing recommendations, especially the caffeine timing, and can say it is very helpful. On his website, he as tool to asses what type you fall in; https://thepowerofwhenquiz.com. As I mentioned earlier, sleep is exciting to me. Please reach out if you are interestedin leveraging this information in optimizing your sleep!

This Book Report collection is meant to provide some of the best take-home points from the health and science genre I read. I will continue to go thru my notes of the 160+ and counting (as of January 2019) Kindle books I have on file. To view ALL the notes I saved on this one AND many others without a Book Report post yet, THAT IS ALSO SEARCHABLE, please click here.


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