Send to

Choose Destination
Chronobiol Int. 2016;33(8):1101-19. doi: 10.1080/07420528.2016.1184678. Epub 2016 Jun 16.

Circadian disruption: New clinical perspective of disease pathology and basis for chronotherapeutic intervention.

Author information

a Department of Biomedical Engineering , Cockrell School of Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin , Austin , TX , USA.
b Bioengineering and Chronobiology Laboratories , Atlantic Research Center for Information and Communication Technologies (AtlantTIC), University of Vigo , Vigo , Spain.
c Unité de Chronobiologie , Fondation A de Rothschild , Paris , Cedex , France.
d American Association for Clinical Chronobiology and Chronotherapeutics, Roseville , MN , USA.
e Hypertension Center, University Hospital S. Anna and Department of Medical Sciences , University of Ferrara , Ferrara , Italy.


Biological processes are organized in time as innate rhythms defined by the period (τ), phase (peak [Φ] and trough time), amplitude (A, peak-trough difference) and mean level. The human time structure in its entirety is comprised of ultradian (τ < 20 h), circadian (20 h > τ < 28 h) and infradian (τ > 28 h) bioperiodicities. The circadian time structure (CTS) of human beings, which is more complicated than in lower animals, is orchestrated and staged by a brain central multioscillator system that includes a prominent pacemaker - the suprachiasmatic nuclei of the hypothalamus. Additional pacemaker activities are provided by the pineal hormone melatonin, which circulates during the nighttime, and the left and right cerebral cortices. Under ordinary circumstances this system coordinates the τ and Φ of rhythms driven by subservient peripheral cell, tissue and organ clock networks. Cyclic environmental, feeding and social time cues synchronize the endogenous 24 h clocks and rhythms. Accordingly, processes and functions of the internal environment are integrated in time for maximum biological efficiency, and they are also organized and synchronized in time to the external environment to ensure optimal performance and response to challenge. Artificial light at night (ALAN) exposure can alter the CTS as can night work, which, like rapid transmeridian displacement by air travel, necessitates realignment of the Φ of the multitude of 24 h rhythms. In 2001, Stevens and Rea coined the phrase "circadian disruption" (CD) to label the CTS misalignment induced by ALAN and shift work (SW) as a potential pathologic mechanism of the increased risk for cancer and other medical conditions. Current concerns relating to the effects of ALAN exposure on the CTS motivated us to renew our long-standing interest in the possible role of CD in the etiopathology of common human diseases and patient care. A surprisingly large number of medical conditions involve CD: adrenal insufficiency; nocturia; sleep-time non-dipping and rising blood pressure 24 h patterns (nocturnal hypertension); delayed sleep phase syndrome, non-24 h sleep/wake disorder; recurrent hypersomnia; SW intolerance; delirium; peptic ulcer disease; kidney failure; depression; mania; bipolar disorder; Parkinson's disease; Smith-Magenis syndrome; fatal familial insomnia syndrome; autism spectrum disorder; asthma; byssinosis; cancers; hand, foot and mouth disease; post-operative state; and ICU outcome. Poorly conceived medical interventions, for example nighttime dosing of synthetic corticosteroids and certain β-antagonists and cyclic nocturnal enteral or parenteral nutrition, plus lifestyle habits, including atypical eating times and chronic alcohol consumption, also can be causal of CD. Just as surprisingly are the many proven chronotherapeutic strategies available today to manage the CD of several of these medical conditions. In clinical medicine, CD seems to be a common, yet mostly unrecognized, pathologic mechanism of human disease as are the many effective chronotherapeutic interventions to remedy it.


chronobiology; circadian desynchronization; circadian disruption; clinical chronotherapy; clinical medicine; etiopathology; human disease

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Taylor & Francis
Loading ...
Support Center