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Are smokers made or born? Biological clocks and smoking (11/16/11)

November 16, 2010

Biological Clocks and Smoking

Addictions possess a high genetic component, and many varied protein and control genes affect who and who does not get hooked.  Some of these genes involve our powerful biological clocks.

Night people, or owls, smoke more than morning types.  Owls get more addicted to cigarettes, and have a harder time getting off of them.

The study demonstrating this and quite a lot else is part of a large, longitudinal  Finnish twin study.  Twenty three thousand pairs of twins have been followed since birth in 1958.

Controlling for other risk factors, evening type twins (owls) are more than three times as likely to smoke as larks (morning types.)

The study also shows what doctors like to see to prove a biological relation –  a dose response curve.  The more evening type you are, the more likely you were to smoke.  Among smokers, as one moved up the scale of eveningness, the more dependent on nicotine smokers became, and the more difficult it was to stop.

The interesting question is why.

Why Do Night People Smoke More?

When asked, the researchers at the University of Helsinki told the truth regarding such studies – nobody knows why night people smoke more.  They  believe the genetics plays a role in both initating and quitting smoking, with night folks much quicker to adopt smoking and slower to quit.  They then suggested two further biobehavioral factors:

  1. Night people should be more prone to be up enjoying  night life and bars – which means more smoking.
  2. Night people will tend to have higher arousal systems – which may help explain why they’re up at night.

I would add two other potential causes:

A.  Night people tend to do more night shift work, which usually leads to more stimulant use, like nicotine.

B.  Smoking wakes people up all night – they go into nicotine withdrawal, generally with 15-25 extra brief awakenings each night.  With all these arousals, many will sleep less and need more stimulants, like nicotine, to stay up during the day.

The Importance of Body Clocks

Time rules life.  All life on the surface of the world has evolved so that we automatically adjust beforehand to the changes of night and day.

So the genes that control our timing mechanisms are very influential.  They affect how well you hit a baseball and remember French verbs; the strength of your arms and the strength of your emotions; what you’re good at and when (you can see my “Body Clock Advantage” for more information.)

It’s no surprise body clock genes may help direct who does and do not become a smoker. What also happens is that getting control of time in your life, for sleep and rest, physical and mental activity, will affect your weight, your energy, your pleasure and your capacity for flow.

For years I looked to find a lark jazz musician.  I finally found one.  He lasted a year and a half before he had to quit the work; he was falling asleep when his friends were beginning to play their sets.

It’s hard to fight time.  Much better to use it. And often, there’s a best time for everything.

But not for smoking.
Rest, sleep, Sarasota Sleep Doctor, well-being, regeneration, longevity, body clocks, insomnia, sleep disorders, the rest doctor, matthew edlund, the power of rest, the body clock, psychology today, huffington post, redbook, longboat key news

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