Circadian Rhythms Disrupted by Light at Night and Mistimed Food Intake Alter Hormonal Rhythms and Metabolism.Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Feb 08; 24(4)IJ
Availability of artificial light and light-emitting devices have altered human temporal life, allowing 24-hour healthcare, commerce and production, and expanding social life around the clock. However, physiology and behavior that evolved in the context of 24 h solar days are frequently perturbed by exposure to artificial light at night. This is particularly salient in the context of circadian rhythms, the result of endogenous biological clocks with a rhythm of ~24 h. Circadian rhythms govern the temporal features of physiology and behavior, and are set to precisely 24 h primarily by exposure to light during the solar day, though other factors, such as the timing of meals, can also affect circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are significantly affected by night shift work because of exposure to nocturnal light, electronic devices, and shifts in the timing of meals. Night shift workers are at increased risk for metabolic disorder, as well as several types of cancer. Others who are exposed to artificial light at night or late mealtimes also show disrupted circadian rhythms and increased metabolic and cardiac disorders. It is imperative to understand how disrupted circadian rhythms alter metabolic function to develop strategies to mitigate their negative effects. In this review, we provide an introduction to circadian rhythms, physiological regulation of homeostasis by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), and SCN-mediated hormones that display circadian rhythms, including melatonin and glucocorticoids. Next, we discuss circadian-gated physiological processes including sleep and food intake, followed by types of disrupted circadian rhythms and how modern lighting disrupts molecular clock rhythms. Lastly, we identify how disruptions to hormones and metabolism can increase susceptibility to metabolic syndrome and risk for cardiovascular diseases, and discuss various strategies to mitigate the harmful consequences associated with disrupted circadian rhythms on human health.