First Ever Nobel Prize for Sleep Research – Understanding the Circadian Rhythm

The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been jointly awarded to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young for their “discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm”.

For many years we have known that living organisms, including humans, have an internal, biological clock that helps them anticipate and adapt to the regular rhythm of the day. Jeffrey C.Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young’s work with fruit flies explains how this clock works. We now recognise that biological clocks function by the same principles in cells of other multicellular organisms, including humans. Our inner clock adapts our physiology to the dramatically different phases of the day. The clock regulates critical functions such as behavior, hormone levels, sleep, body temperature and metabolism. Our health and general wellbeing is affected when there is a temporary mismatch between our external environment and this internal biological clock, for example when we work shift work or travel across several time zones and experience "jet lag". We also now know that chronic circadian misalignment is associated with increased risk for various diseases. The circadian rhythm plays such an integral part in sleep health.

This Nobel Prize is an exciting acknowledgment of sleep research that will hopefully lead to answers for those living with circadian rhythm sleep disorders.

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