Exam Question: Discuss the disruption of biological rhythms (8+ 16 Marks)
Biological rhythms are controlled by endogenous pacemakers (Oscillators). endogenous pacemakers can easily be changed by exogenous Zeitgebers such daylight. However if the oscillators are more resistant this can lead to desynchronisation. The most common type of disruption to biological rhythms are shift work and Jet lag.
Shift work described a type of job in which individuals have to be alert at night when they work, and they sleep during the day. This results in reduced quality of sleep because it goes against our natural biological rhythms as daytime sleep can be interrupted due to exogenous zeitgebers such as ...view middle of the document...
This was supported by Tilley and Wilkinson, who found in their study that shift workers, on average, sleep for 1-2 hours less than those individuals who have normal day jobs. In particular, they found that the amount of REM sleep they have decreases.
A weakness of this research is that it does not account for individual differences because it assumes that all individuals have the same amount of sleep on average, and their circadian rhythms are affected equally by shift work.
However, Reinberg et al found that ‘happy’ shift workers, were those individuals whose circadian rhythms changed very little, whereas those who quit their shift work jobs were those whose rhythms altered vastly and they suffered sleep deprivation.
One criticism of this study, however, is the very small sample size of only 12 participants that were used. This could mean that the results obtained are unreliable and cannot be generalised to the wider population since they are unlikely to be representative. Moreover, another limitation of the findings is that they have gender bias because the study was only conducted on male participants. We could say that they are ‘alpha-biased’, and cannot be generalised to female since they may have produced different results. Nevertheless, a strength of the research by Tilley and Wilkinson is that it reflects both sides of the nature nurture debate. It accounts for both environmental factors e.g. light and noise, and its effect on the innate biological rhythm of the sleep wake cycle.
A second disruption of biological rhythms is due to jet lag. This term is used to describe the physiological effects of disrupting our circadian rhythms. Symptoms of jet lag include loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue and insomnia. It has been...