New app analyzes how social distancing affects biological clocks

By | June 15, 2020

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Woman on bed wake up stretching in bedroom with alarm clock at 6.00 a.m. morning. (Biological Clock healthcare concept.)

Almost overnight, the sleep and wake patterns of nearly four billion people may have changed because of COVID-19-spurred lockdowns.

A free app built by University of Michigan researchers will help users understand their own sleep rhythms, shedding light on how their biological clock is responding to lockdowns, and give tips about how to shift their potentially disrupted rhythms to a more appropriate time.

The data generated by the app could also give scientists an unprecedented opportunity to examine disruption in circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are internal clocks in our cells that regulate when we sleep, when we wake, when we eat and even our digestion. If these clocks are disrupted, a cascade of ill effects may occur, including a weakened immune system.

The new Social Rhythms iOS app assesses how a person’s circadian rhythm changed before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The app allows users to understand how their own body clocks have been impacted and provide researchers with anonymized data to study the impact of disrupted circadian rhythms on a person’s health.