Are Your Internal Clock and Alarm Clock Desynchronized? There’s a Blood Test To Determine It

You can now find out how your body perceives time with a blood test called TimeSignature, which is a vital part of studying sleep disorders and improving health.

Sleep disturbances affect 7-16% of adolescents in the USA, and a few adults also have a problem going to sleep and waking up, called Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder.

A challenging part of studying the disorders was to figure out the time perceived by a person’s body. Previous methods included taking samples of blood over different hours to measure the amount of melatonin in the body.

The TimeSignature Test: Measuring the Circadian Rhythms

Northwestern University researchers developed the TimeSignature test and published their study this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to the paper, the test only requires two blood draws at a few hours apart. Rosemary Braun, who is the lead author on the study, explains why the test is vital in future research:

“This will enable researchers to start to incorporate measures of circadian rhythms into their research.”

The internal clock is a complex process which controls almost every cell in the human body and affects its processes. The clock genes work in the brain, in the hypothalamus, which is right between the eyes. This small region is the “puppet master” of the sleep-wake cycle. It produces the hormone melatonin which makes people sleepy at night.

This clock also controls sleep, blood pressure, body temperature, and digestion – all of them changing during the day.

Northwestern University researchers measured 20,000 genes in the blood of their patients at two hours apart. Combined with the results from several studies that took the same measurements and developing an algorithm, researchers could identify a set of markers that indicated the internal time.

Computer data found 40 gene markers that are turned on differently depending on the hour of a day.

Better Treatments For Sleep Disorders and Other Conditions

This test will help doctors diagnose and treat people that suffer from chronic sleep phase disturbances, and it can even improve the efficacy of drugs, explains Braun:

“There’s increasing evidence that different drugs have different optimal timings for deliveries. But, to date, it’s been very difficult to develop good chronotherapeutics because it’s been so difficult to measure the time of day in a person’s body.”

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere