Cranking the thermostat can leave you ill, here's why
Tuesday, November 3, 2015, 9:57 - With temperatures on the decline and frost in the forecast, it may be time to turn up the thermostat.
However, scientists say the "eternal summer" created by central heating and artificial lighting could be disrupting seasonal rhythms in the human body, leaving people open to illness and premature death.
A new study published in the UK journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, finds humans and animals have evolved to respond to seasonal changes by creating natural defenses against infections like influenza. But the ability to keep houses warm during the winter months could be fooling seasonal genes into thinking it is still the summer, leaving the immune system more vulnerable.
"Climate change is modifying annual rhythms to which numerous organisms have adapted, with potential consequences for industries relating to health, ecosystems and food security," the study notes. "Disconcertingly, human lifestyles under artificial conditions of eternal summer provide the most extreme example for disconnect from natural seasons, making humans vulnerable to increased morbidity and mortality."
Seasonal disruption is a common challenge for not only humans but plant and animal populations, according to the study. As a result, scientists say it is important to work across disciplines to fully understand the impacts of seasonal disruption and how these species can adapt to change.
"The real take home message is that seasonal rhythms are pervasive. Just like daily rhythms which tell us to sleep at night, a similar thing is happening seasonally," Dr. Tyler Stevenson, lead author of the study told the Telegraph.
"But over time these seasonal signals are dampening down. During the twentieth century our species has developed technologies that allow precise light and climate control over our living environments and humans in developed societies now spend the vast majority of their lives in conditions that mimic ‘summer-like’ environments. These so-called eternal summers are characterized by light and temperature controls that lack seasonal rhythmicity. Seasonal changes in environmental variables play a significant role in the regulation of many physiological and behavioural processes. Presently many of us no longer live in accordance with the naturally occurring variation in geophysical rhythms.”Twitter