BIOLOGICAL RHYTHMS



People frequently talk about body clocks, a term that refers to the patterns of energy and exhaustion, functioning and resting, and wakefulness and sleep that characterize everyday life. In fact, the concept of the body clock, or circadian rhythm, is part of a larger picture of biological cycles, such as menstruation in mammalian females. Such cycles, which assume a variety of forms in a wide range of organisms, are known as biological rhythms. These rhythms may be defined as processes that occur periodically in an organism in conjunction with and often in response to periodic changes in environmental conditions—for example, a change in the amount of available light. Not all aspects of the body clock are part of day-to-day experience, and this is fortunate, since these interruptions in the healthy flow of biological rhythms can threaten the well-being of the human organism. Among these challenges to the ordered working of bodily "clocks" are jet lag, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and other disorders linked to a range of causes, including drug use.

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