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Chronic Alcohol Consumption Interferes With Body Clock

Last Updated: September 07, 2009.

Chronic alcohol consumption interferes with circadian rhythms in hamsters, according to a study published in the September issue of the American Journal of Physiology -- Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.

MONDAY, Sept. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Chronic alcohol consumption interferes with circadian rhythms in hamsters, according to a study published in the September issue of the American Journal of Physiology -- Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.

Christina L. Ruby, of Kent State University in Ohio, and colleagues measured ethanol profiles in the suprachiasmatic nucleus and subcutaneously by microdialysis in hamsters drinking 10 percent and 20 percent alcohol. The researchers looked at the impact of alcohol consumption versus water consumption on the hamsters' ability to shift their circadian rhythm in response to changes in light.

Hamsters that consumed the most alcohol had the most difficulty in adjusting their sleep pattern to changing patterns of light and darkness, the researchers found. When exposed to dim light, hamsters drinking water woke up 72 minutes earlier than usual, but hamsters drinking 10 percent alcohol woke up 30 minutes earlier and those drinking 20 percent alcohol woke up only 18 minutes earlier, the investigators discovered.

"Long-term drinking is disruptive to photic phase-resetting and circadian activity patterns even at relatively low brain ethanol concentrations," the authors write. "Withdrawal effects, which may not be immediately evident in hamsters, are indeed manifest in the circadian system by persistent disruption of photic phase-resetting. These results underscore the importance of understanding the pharmacokinetics of ethanol when assessing the effects of drinking on circadian timing and other homeostatic functions."

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