Alcohol abuse is highly disruptive of circadian rhythms, and circadian disruptions can also lead to alcohol abuse as well as relapse in abstinent alcoholics. Circadian timing in mammals is regulated by light as well as other influences such as food, social interactions, and exercise. A new study of the relationship between alcohol intake and wheel-running in hamsters has found that exercise may provide an effective alternative for reducing alcohol intake in humans.

Results will be published in the September 2010 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

"Alcohol abuse, characterized by routine craving for and consumption of alcohol as well as an inability to function normally without it, disrupts both the timing and consolidation of daily circadian rhythms - when to sleep, eat, and mate - driven by the brain circadian clock," explained J. David Glass, professor of biological sciences at Kent State University and corresponding author for the study. "With continual alcohol use, one may go to bed too early or late, not sleep across the night, and have an unusual eating regime, eating little throughout the day and/or overeating at night. This can lead to a vicious cycle of drinking because these individuals, in response, will consume more alcohol to fall asleep easier only to complain of more disrupted sleep across the night and additionally have a greater craving for alcohol."

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