Estimation of Circadian Body Temperature Rhythm Based on Heart Rate in Healthy, Ambulatory Subjects
The few controlled studies dealing with the action of alcohol on core body temperature in humans have focused on the effect of a single dose of ethanol and reported that it has a hypothermic effect. No studies report the effects of repeated ethanol intake over a 24-h period, a pattern of consumption much closer to the clinical condition of chronic alcoholism. We therefore designed a trial in which alcohol was repeatedly and regularly administered, with a total dose of 256 g. Nine healthy male volunteers (mean age 23.3 +/- 2.9 yr; range 21-30) each served as his own control. The circadian temperature rhythm was studied by a single-blind, randomized, crossover study that compared a 26-h alcohol session to a 26-h placebo session. The trial controlled for so-called masking effects known to affect temperature. The volunteers were in bed; the ambient temperature was maintained between 20 and 22 degrees C. Meals were standardized. And light was controlled during the night. All sessions took place between November and April. The two sessions were separated by 2 to 5 wk. Rectal temperature was monitored every 20 min throughout the trial. We found the standard hypothermic effect of alcohol in the early hours of the trial, during the daytime, but our principal result is that alcohol consumption induced a very significant hyperthermic effect (+0.36 degrees C) during the night and thereby reduced the circadian amplitude of core body temperature by 43%. The dramatic decrease of the amplitude of circadian temperature rhythm that we observed may explain, at least in part, some clinical signs observed in alcoholic patients, including sleep and mood disorders. We suggest that jet lag, shift work, and aging, which are known to alter body temperature, are aggravated by alcohol consumption.