Credit: Dr Manuel Spitschan / Coline Weinzaepflen
By Dr Manuel Spitschan and Coline Weinzaepflen
We are very excited to share our new comic book "Enlighten Your Clock: How your body tells time". The main protagonist is a cat – a pet species notable for seemingly sleepy behaviour – guiding the human character. As the biological clock underlies many aspects of our physiology and behaviour, the book addresses a key need to explain how the environment impacts on our brain and our body.
We designed this book for teens and above who are curious about circadian rhythms, sleep, and the effects of light on our body and brain.
The editor - Dr Manuel Spitschan
In my research, I investigate how light helps us see and controls our biological clock. We’ve known for a while looking at a bright light at the wrong time - specifically in the evening and at night - can upset our circadian clock.
Over the past few years, the importance of a good night’s sleep has moved into the focus of many people’s attention, and it is something that might feel difficult to attain while a global pandemic is happening around us.
When Coline started her internship with me as part of her Master’s project, and I learned that she was an illustrator, I proposed the idea of a comic book to her.
I’ve always been fascinated by how to best communicate complex scientific messages to a clear message that is accessible but doesn’t “dumb down” the content. I hope the book becomes a valuable resource for teenagers, parents, teachers, and everyone interested in this topic across the UK and beyond.
The writer and illustrator - Coline Weinzaepflen
I’ve always enjoyed making meaningful drawings in illustrations or comics. Making science accessible as much as possible to people can be a significant challenge for the scientific community.
That’s why I had a lot of enthusiasm working on this comic book. This project merged two things that I love: explaining biological concepts that I am fascinated by, and drawing (cat) cartoons.
The idea was to develop a format enjoyable for teenagers and adults, giving all the keys to understanding better sleep and what happens in their bodies and brains during the day and at night.
When I approached Manuel initially to do an internship in chronobiology, I had no idea that I would be able to combine these two interests of mine.
Making the comic book was exciting because we didn’t want something too complicated or too obvious. Part of the process involved the precious help of students from Cherwell School, who helped make the comic as accessible and engaging as possible.
I hope we’ve accomplished our mission: that this bit of science will enthral many people and hopefully give them the desire to know more!
Dr Manuel Spitschan, who wrote the comic book, is a University Research Lecturer, in the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford
Coline Weinzaepflen, who illustrated the comic book, is a neuroscience student and Illustrator
The comic book was developed within the Sleep, circadian rhythms and mental health in schools (SCRAMS) network, which Dr Spitschan is a member of, and was funded by an MRC/AHRC/ESRC Engagement Award in the Adolescence, Mental Health and the Developing Mind (MR/T046317/1: Sleep, circadian rhythms and mental health in schools (SCRAMS)).
The comic book (licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND license) is available for free as a PDF on https://enlightenyourclock.org/.