The mammalian circadian system comprises a network of endogenous oscillators, spanning from the central clock in the brain to peripheral clocks in other organs. These clocks are tightly coordinated to orchestrate rhythmic physiological and behavioral functions. Dysregulation of these rhythms is a hallmark of aging, yet it remains unclear how age-related changes lead to more easily disrupted circadian rhythms. Using a two-population model of coupled oscillators that integrates the central clock and the peripheral clocks, we derive simple mean-field equations that can capture many aspects of the rich behavior found in the mammalian circadian system. We focus on three age-associated effects that have been posited to contribute to circadian misalignment: attenuated input from the sympathetic pathway, reduced responsiveness to light, and a decline in the expression of neurotransmitters. We find that the first two factors can significantly impede re-entrainment of the clocks following perturbation, while a weaker coupling within the central clock does not affect the recovery rate. Moreover, using our minimal model, we demonstrate the potential of using the feed–fast cycle as an effective intervention to accelerate circadian re-entrainment. These results highlight the importance of peripheral clocks in regulating the circadian rhythm and provide fresh insights into the complex interplay between aging and the resilience of the circadian system.

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