Clinical chronobiology and chronotherapeutics with applications to asthma

Chronobiol Int. 1999 Sep;16(5):539-63. doi: 10.3109/07420529908998728.


The concept of homeostasis (i.e., constancy of the milieu interne) has long dominated the teaching and practice of medicine. Concepts and findings from chronobiology, the scientific study of biological rhythms, challenge this construct. Biological processes and functions are not at all constant; rather, they are organized in time as rhythms with period lengths that range in duration from as short as a second or less to as long as a year. It is the body's circadian (24 h) rhythms that have been researched most intensely. The peak and trough of these rhythms are ordered rather precisely in time to support the biological requirements of activity during the day and sleep at night. The timing of the peak and trough plus the magnitude of variation (amplitude) of physiological and biochemical functions during the 24 h give rise to predictable-in-time, day-night patterns in the manifestation and exacerbation of many common medical conditions. Circadian rhythms also can influence the response of patients to diagnostic tests and therapeutic interventions according to their timing with reference to body rhythms. Rhythms in the pathophysiology of medical conditions and patient tolerance to medications constitute the basis for chronotherapeutics, the timing of treatment in relation to biological rhythm determinants as a means of optimizing beneficial effects and safety. The article discusses recent advances in medical chronobiology and chronotherapeutics and their relevance to clinical medicine in general and the management of asthma in particular. Indeed, since asthma is a disease that exhibits rather profound circadian rhythmicity, investigation of its pathophysiology and therapy necessitates a chronobiologic approach.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Chronobiology Phenomena*
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Humans
  • Respiratory Function Tests


  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents