Under normal circumstances biological rhythms are not in conflict with the daily lives of people,however there are two main examples of when conflict can occur; jet lag and shift lag. Jet lag (desynchronosis) is
caused by the body’s internal clock being out of sync with external cues and has symptoms including fatigue,
insomnia, anxiety and dehydration. Schwartz et al. (1995) studied the performance and reaction times of baseballteams flying from the East to West coast of America and vice versa (a 3 hour time difference). It was found that teamstravelling West performed considerably better than those travelling East. However, this was performed on sportsteams who are likely to be trained to have high reflexes/ reaction times so there are difficulties in generalising theresults of this study. De la Iglesia (2004) exposed rats to artificial days lasting 11 hours rather than 12. It was foundthat gradually, the rats began to exhibit daytime behaviour at night. De la Iglesia went on to discover that both the topand bottom of the SCN contained the protein Perl during the day and the protein Bmall at night. However, duringdesynchronosis the top half contained Perl and the bottom half contained Bmall suggesting that the bottom half of the SCN continues to rely on endogenous pacemakers whereas the top half is affected by exogenous zeitgebers. Saper(2008) suggested that there is a food clock which is capable of over-riding the master biological clock and thereforefasting during flights and eating at the correct times in new time zones may in fact reset the biological clock.
Shift lag is a serious problem as it can result in fatigue, sleep disturbance, lack of concentration, memory loss andusually occurs over extended periods of time. There are a number of shift patterns currently in use; fixed shifts andclockwise/ anti-clockwise rotating shifts. Czeisler et al (1982) recommended a slow rotation with a phase-delay system(moving a shift forward every time) to factory workers in a Utah chemical plant and a number of benefits includingincreased morale and health were reported. Boivin et al. (1996) put 31 male participants on an inverted sleep patternfor three days. After waking on each day they were subjected to one of the following conditions: very bright light,bright light, ordinary room lighting or dim lighting. To measure the adjustment, core body temperature (a knowncircadian rhythm) was measured. Participants in the very bright light condition adjusted by five hours within threedays. The other conditions did also advance but not by as much and the participants in condition four did not adjust atall. It was concluded that bright light can help biological rhythms adjust to shift lag and this research could beimplemented in various companies where employees work on shifts. Alternatively, Sharkey (2001) found that thehormone melatonin could be used to aid adjustment to shift patterns and increase sleep during periods of non-work.However this is currently only available in America as it has not been given an EU licence yet.
Sleep appears to be necessary for all animals to survive. It has been estimated that humans sleep onaverage for 7.5 hours per night. Of course, there are individual differences and Meddis (1979) even reported the casestudy of a woman who slept for 1 hour per night with none of the side effects associated with sleep deprivation. Thestages of sleep (slow wave 1-4 and REM) are covered in biological rhythms. There are two theories concerning thedevelopment of sleep, these are the evolutionary theory and the restorative theory. The evolutionary theory (Meddis)states that due to poor vision in low light, sleep has an evolutionary advantage to humans because it keeps the speciessafe at night; and therefore more likely to survive to pass on genes. This theory also takes into account that animalswith higher metabolic rates spend more time eating and so sleep for smaller periods at a time. Evans (1984) criticises
this theory, stating ‘ the behaviour patterns involved in sleep are glaringly at odds with common sense’ referring to
the fact that while this theory proposes animals sleep for protection, they are in fact at their most vulnerable duringthis state. Siegal (2005) reviewed the sleep patterns of numerous species and concluded that it could not beperforming the same function in every species because of the diversity of sleep patterns.
Webb proposes a variation on the evolutionary theory, known as the hibernation theory which sees sleep as anadaptive behaviour designed to conserve energy. This theory compares sleep to hibernation in the way that it occursto conserve energy so that an animal does not need to constantly feed. In humans, sleep lowers the metabolic rate byup to 10% thus conserving energy/ resources during time when early humans were unable to forage or hunt (eg. nighttime, as described in the previous paragraph). Meddis criticises this theory for being too simplistic and not taking into
account the role of sleep in protection from danger. Empson(1993) described sleep as ‘a complex function involvingfar reaching changes in brain and body physiology’ suggesting that slee
p must have a restorative function and cannotpurely be evolutionary. Evolutionary theories are also unable to explain the complexities of sleep such as the REMstage (although it has been suggested that the brain activity observed in this stage is to prevent brain temperaturefrom dropping too low). Some psychologists argue that sleep would now be pointless in human societies, however theevolutionary response is that behaviour changes much more rapidly than biology or physiology through evolution -known as the genome lag.Oswald (1966) suggested that sleep restores energy, removes waste from muscles and repairs cells, as well as allowgrowth to occur. One example of this is the build up of neurotransmitters used in the nervous system throughout the