Human Responses to the Geophysical Daily, Annual and Lunar Cycles

Circadian and Visual Neuroscience, Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology, University of Oxford, Levels 5 & 6 West Wing, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headley Way, Oxford OX3 7BN, UK.
Current Biology (Impact Factor: 9.57). 10/2008; 18(17):R784-R794. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.07.003
Source: PubMed


Collectively the daily, seasonal, lunar and tidal geophysical cycles regulate much of the temporal biology of life on Earth. The increasing isolation of human societies from these geophysical cycles, as a result of improved living conditions, high-quality nutrition and 24/7 working practices, have led many to believe that human biology functions independently of them. Yet recent studies have highlighted the dominant role that our circadian clock plays in the organisation of 24 hour patterns of behaviour and physiology. Preferred wake and sleep times are to a large extent driven by an endogenous temporal program that uses sunlight as an entraining cue. The alarm clock can drive human activity rhythms but has little direct effect on our endogenous 24 hour physiology. In many situations, our biology and our society appear to be in serious opposition, and the damaging consequences to our health under these circumstances are increasingly recognised. The seasons dominate the lives of non-equatorial species, and until recently, they also had a marked influence on much of human biology. Despite human isolation from seasonal changes in temperature, food and photoperiod in the industrialised nations, the seasons still appear to have a small, but significant, impact upon when individuals are born and many aspects of health. The seasonal changes that modulate our biology, and how these factors might interact with the social and metabolic status of the individual to drive seasonal effects, are still poorly understood. Lunar cycles had, and continue to have, an influence upon human culture, though despite a persistent belief that our mental health and other behaviours are modulated by the phase of the moon, there is no solid evidence that human biology is in any way regulated by the lunar cycle.

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    • "Human behavior and physiology are still dominated by geophysical sunrise and sunset , resulting in strong daily cycles. However, seasonal patterns, such as in reproduction, death, and disease, are much more difficult to detect and have shown decreasing amplitudes over the last decades (Roenneberg and Aschoff, 1990; Roenneberg, 2004; Foster and Roenneberg, 2008). Decreased rhythmicity on the population level could be due to both reduced amplitude of cycles within individuals and loss of synchrony between individuals. "
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    ABSTRACT: Fatty acids (FAs) can exert important physiological effects: for example, as precursors of eicosanoids, as signaling molecules, and, in particular, as parts of phospholipids, the major constituents of cell membranes. Animals can remodel cell membranes in terms of their FA composition in response to environmental conditions, and even endothermic mammals exhibit seasonal cycles in the FA makeup of membranes. Previous evidence pointed to the existence of both seasonal and daily cycles in phospholipid composition of human cell membranes. Therefore, we used a noninvasive method to collect human mucosa cells over 1 year in 20 healthy subjects, and we determined seasonal and daily rhythmicity of phospholipid FA content. Our results show that significant daily rhythms were detectable in 11 of 13 FAs and were largely synchronous among subjects. Also, these daily rhythms showed stable phase relationships between different FAs within subjects. In contrast, yearly rhythms in phospholipid FA content were statistically significant in only ~50% of subjects and were asynchronous between subjects. These results support the view that while human physiology is still dominated by geophysical sunrise and sunset, resulting in strong daily cycles, seasonal rhythms are less well defined, at least in Western societies. We suggest that the main physiological function underlying rhythms in cell membrane composition is the regulation of the activity of transmembrane proteins, such as ion pumps, which can be strongly affected by the fatty acyl chains of phospholipids in the surrounding membrane bilayer. Hence, among a multitude of other functions, cycles in membrane FA composition may be involved in generating the daily rhythm of metabolic rate. Rhythms in certain membrane FAs, namely polyunsaturated and monounsaturated FAs that are known to affect health, could be also involved in daily and seasonal rhythms of diseases and death. © 2015 The Author(s).
    Journal of Biological Rhythms 06/2015; 30(4). DOI:10.1177/0748730415588190 · 2.77 Impact Factor
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    • "These characteristics appear crucial with respect to the frequent and maybe inappropriate use of light-emitting and alerting multimedia screens before sleep onset during adolescence. The circadian clock of adolescents has a markedly later circadian phase compared with older adults [3]. Eveningness is associated with a lack of morning light exposure [32] and disproportional evening exposure to artificial light sources. "
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose: Adolescents prefer sleep and wake times that are considerably delayed compared with younger children or adults. Concomitantly, multimedia use in the evening is prevalent among teenagers and involves light exposure, particularly in the blue-wavelength range to which the biological clock and its associated arousal promotion system is the most sensitive. We investigated whether the use of blue light-blocking glasses (BB) during the evening, while sitting in front of a light-emitting diode (LED) computer screen, favors sleep initiating mechanisms at the subjective, cognitive, and physiological level. Methods: The ambulatory part of the study comprised 2 weeks during which the sleep-wake cycle, evening light exposure, and multimedia screen use were monitored in thirteen 15- to 17-year-old healthy male volunteers. BB or clear lenses as control glasses were worn in a counterbalanced crossover design for 1 week each, during the evening hours while using LED screens. Afterward, participants entered the laboratory and underwent an evening blue light-enriched LED screen exposure during which they wore the same glasses as during the preceding week. Salivary melatonin, subjective sleepiness, and vigilant attention were regularly assayed, and subsequent sleep was recorded by polysomnography. Results: Compared with clear lenses, BB significantly attenuated LED-induced melatonin suppression in the evening and decreased vigilant attention and subjective alertness before bedtime. Visually scored sleep stages and behavioral measures collected the morning after were not modified. Conclusions: BB glasses may be useful in adolescents as a countermeasure for alerting effects induced by light exposure through LED screens and therefore potentially impede the negative effects modern lighting imposes on circadian physiology in the evening.
    Journal of Adolescent Health 10/2014; 56(1). DOI:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2014.08.002 · 3.61 Impact Factor
    • "Effects on human behavior and activity Moonlight, especially around the three days of FM, would have permitted many activities, including work, hunting, travel and even social gatherings. Thus, real changes in many aspects of human behavior and activity pattern would have become associated with the lunar phase and various studies support this phenomenon (Foster & Roenneberg 2008). For identifying peoples' opinion about lunar effects in New Orleans, Italy, a questionnaire was sent to 325 people, out of which 140 individuals (43%) held the opinion that lunar phenomena alter personal behavior. "
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    ABSTRACT: The four prominent phases of the lunar month are new moon, first quarter, full moon, and third quarter. According to the position of the moon in its orbit, the gravitational pull of the moon on earth changes and the amplitude of ocean tides also vary. A large number of investigations have shown the association of different lunar phases with the mental health or physical health and diseases, physical activity pattern, and reproduction of humans. The changes occurred may be due to either the disturbance of electromagnetic field of the earth or the changes of lunar gravitational force on earth and changes of "human tidal wave" or "biological tide" during different lunar phases. The altered autonomic neural activity and cardiovascular activity during different lunar phases is probably one of the fundamental causes of the changes of human physiology.
    Biological Rhythm Research 05/2014; 45(3):383-396. DOI:10.1080/09291016.2013.830508 · 0.92 Impact Factor
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