Newspaper article

German Spa Town Aims to Be World's First 'ChronoCity'

Newspaper article

German Spa Town Aims to Be World's First 'ChronoCity'

Article excerpt

In an intriguing article published online this week in The Atlantic, health writer and editor Julie Beck describes how the small German town of Bad Kissingen has decided to become the world's first "ChronoCity."

Last summer, the town's mayor, town council, and researchers from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich signed a letter of intent in which, reports Beck, "they pledged to promote chronobiology research in the town, to 'gather results that are directly applicable to living, education, work, well-being, health, mobility, rehabilitation, and sleep.'"

The primary motive behind the initiative is a business one: to boost Bad Kissingen's medical tourism. The town, which has a population of about 20,000, is home to 17 hospitals, sanatariums and rehabilitation facilities that attract about 250,000 "guests" per year.

The politicians and business leaders of Bad Kissingen are looking for a way to make their spa town stand out from all the others in Europe.

But science -- specifically, the science of chronobiology -- is also driving the initiative. (Full disclosure: More than two decades ago, I co-authored one of the first popular books on this field of research.)

"Bad Kissingen," says Beck, "has committed itself to finding ways to implement chronobiology into the fabric of the town's society."

The importance of sleep

Chronobiology is the study of the body's internal biological rhythms and their effect on health. That includes, of course, sleep patterns.

"A person's preferred sleep pattern is his or her 'chronotype,' " writes Beck. "This is what we're talking about when we say someone is a morning person or a night owl. Research has shown that living outside your chronotype, which most of us do -- waking ourselves up early with an alarm clock for school or work, or staying out too late at the bars -- can lead to all kinds of problems other than just being tired: poor memory, depression, obesity, even a greater risk for some kinds of cancer."

The first step Bad Kissingen is taking -- with the help of Thomas Kanterman, a chronobiologist at the University of Groningen -- is to encourage all its residents to input their own chronotype data into an online database. …

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