Everyone wants it in greater supply. It is our least renewable resource and one of our most precious. If it could be patented, the United States government would probably step in and regulate its use. It is our quickest disappearing resource as we accelerate into the 21st century. It cannot be mined, grown, synthesized or recycled. “It” is time.

Time, rhythm and energy fascinate me. As a former dance and movement instructor I wondered, “Why am I and my students sensing time so differently?” In my chiropractor work I observed the varying responses of patients whom I adjusted in the morning versus those I adjusted in the evening. This left me asking, “How is their energy impacted by time?” “How do inner rhythms relate to time?”

As I thought about time and its interrelationship to rhythm and energy, books, songs, and newspaper articles about time began appearing synchro-nistically in my life. I discovered that there is a name for what I had observed and experienced — chronobiology. I learned that chronobiology is “how all living things inscribe patterns in time.” Chronobiologists have discovered that every human being is a finely tuned system of many interlocking inner clocks that display a distinct rhythm. Because this concept of time is built into us at the cellular level, the biological clocks in our bodies and brains dictate our desires, dislikes moods, hungers, abilities and vulnerabilities.

Since the term chronobiology was coined at the University of Minnesota in 1952, over 100 different internal cycles have been identified in the human body. Some of these, like our temperature cycle, affect our whole organism. Others play out their rhythms in smaller ways, such as cell division. There is a question as to whether these cycles are driven by our external or internal clocks. There is one agreed upon important finding: many inner clocks drift a few seconds, minutes or hours. Thus, within each of us, our many cycles go on constantly. They play out a complex symphony. Some cycles overlap some drive other cycles and some operate independently.

By working with these rhythms, we can protect our health, improve our productivity and better understand ourself and others. If these rhythms go awry, both our minds and bodies can suffer. Therefore, ignoring these rhythms makes us less efficient and puts us at risk for physical and mental illness.

In her book, “The Science of Body Clocks and What Makes Us Tick,” Carol Orlock describes two biological types that represent separate formats for what different bodies do at different times. The “Lark” experiences a rise in body temperature thinks best and performs with greater physical efficiency in the am. hours. By mid-afternoon “Larks” have experienced a decrease in body temperature and mental capability. Larks are the classic “morning person.” Orlock details “Owls” as people whose body temperature rises slowly throughout the day. They can work late into the night, preferring a 26-hour day, and athletically perform best later in the day; hence, the typical characteristics of those we call the “Night Owl.”

Implications and questions regarding the awareness of time in healing and medicine have been explored for over 30,000 years. Ancient cultures used lunar cycles, women’s menstrual cycles and seasonal cycles to pray, plant and procreate. In the East, Chinese and Tibetan medicine is prescribed based not only upon the time of day, but also upon the day of the week, the monthly menstrual cycle, if applicable, and the season of the year.

The Greek philosopher Socrates noted that the symptoms of mental illness worsen during certain times of the year. Physician, Hippocrates, confirmed that the solstice and equinoxes were the most dangerous periods for emotional illness. His were some of the earliest observations of a syndrome that was only recognized by Western medicine in the 1980’s as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is an annual depression that strikes as many as one in 15 Americans during the short days of winter. Symptoms include lethargy, depression, carbohydrate cravings
and weight gain.

Research into time and its effect upon the human body has zigged and zagged throughout history with recorded observations sporadically made and explored. In the 1660’s French philosopher Rene Descates called the pineal gland the “seat of the soul.” His description sufficed for 300 years. Only in the 20th century did scientists recognize that the pineal gland influences our bodies’ cycles of alertness and mood. English writer, Robert Burton, wrote in 1628 that “our body is like a clock, if one wheel be amiss, all the rest are disordered.” He could not have expected to wait 200 years before anyone caught on to what he meant. But caught on some did and now we can be encouraged that the observations of the past have been brought into current research and thinking. As with all things, it is not only understanding what something is, but what we do with the knowledge that matters. So, let time work with your inner rhythms and your energy so that you can be the very best “Lark” or “Owl” you were meant to be.