Friday, May 3, 2019

Social Jet Lag and College Students

Social Jet Lag and College Students

When you think of college students, you probably think of erratic and ever-changing schedules between classes, jobs, and social activities. The inconsistent patterns of life college students generally live in creates a phenomena called social jet lag. Social jet lag is when an individual wakes up around the same time during the week but then stays up late and wakes up late over the weekends. This creates a jet lag effect because it throws that individual's circadian rhythms out of wack, like we learned at Dr. Cavanaugh's presentation. A circadian rhythm is an integral clock we all have that controls things like sleep and wake patterns, body temperature, and hormone release to name a few. Circadian rhythms are controlled by environmental cues, like light and dark periods. We also learned in class that a lot of college students were putting themselves through this type of social jet lag every weekend.

The New York Times article An Underappreciated Key to College Success: Sleep discusses the impact of social jet lag on college students as well as how to avoid social jet lag. We learned in class that average GPA declined with evidence of social jet lag, but this article states that "one in three or four students fail to graduate, [and] if their sleep were improved, their likelihood of graduating would too." A proven decline in GPA and inability to graduate on time show that social jet lag is becoming an issue, and the article even goes as far as to call it a "major public health crisis." There are many ways to avoid social jet lag the article states, such as going to bed and waking up at similar times every day, avoiding caffeine before going to bed, and keeping electronics out of the bedroom. Although these are hard for college students to do with said erratic schedules, it think majority would be willing to change their lifestyles in order to achieve better grades and a higher probability of graduating on time.

Works Cited:
Brody, Jane E. “An Underappreciated Key to College Success: Sleep.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 Aug. 2018,

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Circadian Rhythm and its Effects on the Health of organisms

The Circadian rhythm controls the biological functions of many organisms this includes  plants, animals, and fungi. This internal mechanism is controlled by the 24hr day and night cycle and is what determines our sleeping patterns, production of certain hormones and enzymes, and the expression of some genes.

            Dr. Cavanaugh studied the circadian rhythm and how its disruption affects the body. He did this by inducing chronic circadian misalignment (CCM) in Drosophila melanogaster. In his presentation he discussed the effects of CCM and how the change in induced day and night cycle affected the flies. Dr. Cavanaugh exposed these flies to light in specific shifts altering their perception of the length of the day. This resulted in the premature death of the flies. The cause was a change in production of many different enzymes, and the alteration in gene expression. These flies adjusted to this change in light exposure and their behavior was recorded. The flies ended up being active when they were exposed to light and dormant when placed in darkness.

            Dr. Richard Stevens of University of Connecticut School of Medicine also studied the negative effects of CCM. He studied the connection between negative health risks and nightly exposer to light. He states that in other studies that visually impaired women were at lower risk of breast cancer. This brought up the question, what are the negative effects of electronics and how their produced light affects our health. He determined that light of shorter wavelengths have greater effects on the body than those of longer wavelengths. This has correlation to the effects of the sun, and how it’s light creates blue light. This lowers the melatonin produced by the body, disrupting our circadian rhythm. There were other clinical studies that stated that supplemental melatonin can slow the growth of tumors as well.

            The connection between CCM and the health of the body and those of other organisms is apparent. The shortened life span of the flies in Dr. Cavanaugh’s study and the relationship between cancer and nightly blue light exposure helps to prove this connection. The change in gene expression and hormone secretion has huge effects on the health of both humans and other organisms alike.


Stevens, Richard G. “Light-at-Night, Circadian Disruption and Breast Cancer: Assessment of Existing Evidence.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 20 Apr. 2009,

Cavanaugh, Dan. “(04.16.19) - Dan Cavanaugh.” Dropbox, 20 Dec. 2018, - Dan Cavanaugh?dl=0&preview=boomgarden_cavanaugh_drosophila_jetlag_longevity_gene_expression_BMC_genomics_2019.pdf&subfolder_nav_tracking=1.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Dangers of Chronic Circadian Misalignment

On the 16th of April, Dr. Dan Cavanaugh of Loyola University Chicago’s Biology Department presented the result of his research on chronic circadian misalignment of Drosophila and related his findings to the dangers of accumulated sleep debt, especially in shift workers and university students. He did so by explaining how this information was discovered from studying sleep cycles in Drosophila. During his presentation, Dr. Cavanaugh explained how while both humans and fruit flies do not have perfect 24-hour sleep schedules, a regular sleeping pattern is followed by both species and loses its regularity when disrupted by extended wake periods and/or light exposure. He also related the sleep schedules of travelers with jetlag to that of students based on the common sleep and wake times of university students and explained how the light exposure in major cities is sufficient to throw off the sleep schedules of individuals (or at least allows individuals to customize them).  
Humans without a regular sleep schedule who continuously do not get enough rest at night are more likely to make mistakes or overlook errors in their places of work. The article titled “Night Shift Workers Are At An increased Risk For Car Crashes, Even During Daytime Commute” by Justin Caba for Medical Daily confirms Dr. Cavanaugh’s findings when mentioning the hazardous nature of drowsy driving to both the driver and other drivers on the road. The study in this article observed the driving habits of 16 sleep-deprived participants and their propensities towards crashing. A marked increase was observed and reported. 
This information is important to note as individuals select what careers to pursue. Self-care and adequate sleep is vital not only for the health of the individual but also for the health of those around them. 

Works Cited 

C. Boomgarden, Alex & D. Sagewalker, Gabriel & C. Shah, Aashaka & D. Haider, Sarah & Patel, Pramathini & E. Wheeler, Heather & Dubowy, Christine & J. Cavanaugh, Daniel. (2019). Chronic circadian misalignment results in reduced longevity and large-scale changes in gene expression in Drosophila. BMC Genomics. 20. 14. 10.1186/s12864-018-5401-7.