Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Tessa Solomon-Lane

Reader 2

Melissa Coleman

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Circadian rhythms are responsible for driving the cyclical nature of many crucial biological processes, such as sleep, cell growth, menstruation, and reproduction. Through these processes, the circadian system also influences cognitive abilities and social behavior. Therefore, a dysregulated circadian system can disrupt several fundamental processes, with potentially fatal consequences. By understanding how circadian rhythms interact with biological, hormonal, and cognitive systems, measures can be taken to protect or restore the rhythmicity of one’s circadian rhythm. In this literature review, I focus on three domains 1) carcinogenesis, 2) fertility and reproduction, and 3) risk-taking and decision-making. First, several proteins in the circadian system regulate the cell cycle. Thus, when the circadian system is disrupted, cell growth continues uninhibited, which leads to carcinogenesis. Second, for reproduction, menstruation is heavily influenced by hormonal fluctuations that follow circadian rhythms. When these fluctuations are altered, fertility is negatively affected. Lastly, sleep deprivation caused by a disrupted circadian system negatively impacts one’s ability to evaluate new information, make good decisions, and learn from past mistakes. Taken together, circadian rhythm research is important for the development of chrono (time based) treatments and therapies, as well as the development of policies that can protect those who engage in shift work. It is particularly important to apply this research to healthcare workers and emergency responders, where individuals not only experience the negative consequences of their disrupted circadian system, but they face situations where they are expected to make unimpaired, split-second, life changing decisions while experiencing these negative consequences.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.