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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.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/j.cub.2008.07.003

Type

Journal article

Journal

Curr Biol

Publication Date

09/09/2008

Volume

18

Pages

R784 - R794

Keywords

Biological Clocks, Birth Rate, Circadian Rhythm, Death, Female, Human Activities, Humans, Male, Moon, Periodicity, Photoperiod, Seasons, Sexual Behavior, Sleep