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Sleep and circadian rhythms

Special Issue Editor: Shigekazu Higuchi (Kyushu University, Japan)

Sleep and circadian rhythms are fundamental phenomena in biological organisms. Research indicates that lack of sleep and disruptions in circadian rhythms correlate with poor mental and physical health. In modern society, humans live surrounded by various factors that disrupt our sleep and circadian rhythms, such as the internationalization of business, the increasing 24-hour nature of commercial services, the ease of accessibility of information, longer and more unsocial working hours. In this special issue in Journal of Physiological Anthropology we investigate how human sleep and circadian rhythms are affected by our modern environment? Can our bodies adapt to these changes, it appears that, at least in certain societies and populations, sleep and circadian rhythms have not been able to adapt.

There has been a great deal of research in recent years in the field of human sleep and circadian rhythm, both at the gene and the physiological level. Individual differences in sleep and circadian rhythms have been associated with some clock gene polymorphisms. The impact of environmental factors cannot be ignored. Light in particular is an important synchronizer for circadian rhythms, and has been shown to be effective in the treatment of circadian rhythm disorder and seasonal affective disorder. However, light can also be detrimental, excessive night time exposure is a possible risk factor for cancer in shift workers. Other environmental factors such as temperature, whilst not acting directly on the circadian pacemaker, could be an important factor in determining the quality of sleep.

In physiological anthropology, variations in the physiological states and responses are considered substantive. It is therefore necessary to clarify the mechanisms and factors that give rise to these variations. It is also important to explain the physiological or biological significance of these variations from the standpoint of adaptation. Sleep and circadian rhythm research has been moving forward on many fronts, from the molecular level to the population level, and from research done in the lab to research done in the field. The goal of physiological anthropology is to understand these findings in the context of adaptation, in order to obtain a clearer understanding of the essential nature of man. 

All submissions are subject to standard peer review process of the Journal of Physiological Anthropology and all of the journal’s standard policies. This includes the journal’s policy on competing interests. The Editors declare no competing interests with the submissions which they have handled through the peer review process.

  1. Perinatal depression is an important public health problem affecting 10% to 20% of childbearing women. Perinatal depression is associated with significant morbidity, and has enormous consequences for the wellb...

    Authors: Shannon K Crowley and Shawn D Youngstedt
    Citation: Journal of Physiological Anthropology 2012 31:15
  2. The thermal environment is one of the most important factors that can affect human sleep. The stereotypical effects of heat or cold exposure are increased wakefulness and decreased rapid eye movement sleep and...

    Authors: Kazue Okamoto-Mizuno and Koh Mizuno
    Citation: Journal of Physiological Anthropology 2012 31:14
  3. Good sleep is advantageous to the quality of life. Sleep-related benefits are particularly helpful for the working class, since poor or inadequate amounts of sleep degrade work productivity and overall health....

    Authors: Masaya Takahashi
    Citation: Journal of Physiological Anthropology 2012 31:6
  4. The amount and timing of sleep and sleep architecture (sleep stages) are determined by several factors, important among which are the environment, circadian rhythms and time awake. Separating the roles played ...

    Authors: Jim Waterhouse, Yumi Fukuda and Takeshi Morita
    Citation: Journal of Physiological Anthropology 2012 31:5