Ignoring the body’s natural rhythms can affect our physical and mental wellbeing – and even the outcome of surgery

Our bodies have many clocks that control sleep, health and performance. If we do things at the wrong times, there can be dangerous consequences. This year’s Nobel prize was awarded to the three scientists who discovered the key genes in circadian (24-hour) body clocks. Their discovery enabled other scientists to discover the thousands of circadian times that control our health, our genes and even when we should have treatments: it can make the difference between life and death.

Major heart surgery is common, but fraught with dangers. The most significant is the magnitude and duration of interrupting and restarting the body’s oxygenated blood supply. On Friday a study was published on the complications arising from morning and afternoon heart surgery. The time of surgery made a significant difference: 54 (out of 298) patients who had surgery in the morning experienced complications (18% of all patients) compared to 28 (of 298) patients who had surgery in the afternoon (9%). Heart surgery appears to be safer in the afternoon.

The links between mental health problems and...

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Mental health is a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of a mental disorder; it is the "psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment".