Page last updated:August 2021
Circadian regulation of breath alcohol concentration


The role of the circadian clock in regulating blood/breath alcohol levels after consuming alcohol is uncertain. Scientists evaluated the degree to which the circadian system regulates breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) pharmacokinetic parameters.
Twenty healthy adults aged 21-30 years took part in a 4-day laboratory study. A 40-h constant routine procedure was used to assess circadian rhythms. Every 4 h, participants were given a fixed oral dose of alcohol with breathalyzer measurements taken every 5 min to construct BrAC curves. Models were used to test for circadian variation of the peak BrAC, the time to reach peak BrAC, the absorption rate, the elimination rate, and the time for BrAC to return to zero after alcohol was ingested.
A significant circadian rhythm was detected for group-averaged peak BrAC values and the time for BrAC to return to zero, but not other BrAC variables. Peak BrAC values were lowest in the evening near the peak of the core body temperature rhythm and nadir of the salivary cortisol rhythm. Peak BrAC values increased during the night and reached their highest levels in the morning and afternoon. The time needed for BrAC to return to zero was also longest in the late morning and afternoon.
The circadian system modulates some BrAC pharmacokinetic parameters. In normally entrained individuals, taking the same oral dose of alcohol at different times of day can result in different BrAC responses. These findings have potential implications for alcohol-related accidents and alcohol toxicity.
Source: Rukmini AV, Jos AM, Yeo SC, Lee N, Mo D, Mohapatra L, Karamchedu S, Gooley JJ. Circadian regulation of breath alcohol concentration. Sleep. 2021 Jun 11;44(6):zsaa270. doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsaa270. PMID: 33305816.

doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsaa270
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