Medications often have instructions to take them at a specific time – first thing in the morning, with a meal, before bed. While there are good reasons for this, they almost never have to do with synchronizing the medication’s effect with the body’s circadian rhythm – a concept known as chronopharmacology.
Circadian hormones, such as melatonin and cortisol, affect thousands of genes, helping to synchronize many bodily processes, including digestion, reproduction and sleep, with the light/ dark cycles.
When this goes awry – as can happen to shift workers or from jet lag – problems as diverse as sleep disturbance and inflammation can result.
Arthritis symptoms like joint pain and stiffness are often most pronounced first thing in the morning. This is due partly to inflammatory cytokines (chemical messengers in the blood), which tend to be at their highest levels toward the end of the night, thanks to our circadian rhythm.
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