The Circadian Clock, the Brain, and COVID-19: The Cases of Olfaction and the Timing of Sleep

J Biol Rhythms. 2021 Oct;36(5):423-431. doi: 10.1177/07487304211031206. Epub 2021 Aug 15.


Daily rhythms of behavior and neurophysiology are integral to the circadian clocks of all animals. Examples of circadian clock regulation in the human brain include daily rhythms in sleep-wake, cognitive function, olfactory sensitivity, and risk for ischemic stroke, all of which overlap with symptoms displayed by many COVID-19 patients. Motivated by the relatively unexplored, yet pervasive, overlap between circadian functions and COVID-19 neurological symptoms, this perspective piece uses daily variations in the sense of smell and the timing of sleep and wakefulness as illustrative examples. We propose that time-stamping clinical data and testing may expand and refine diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.

Keywords: COVID-19; circadian; neurological; olfaction; sleep.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain
  • COVID-19*
  • Circadian Clocks*
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Humans
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Sleep
  • Smell
  • Wakefulness