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SLEEP-WAKE RHYTHMS

Sleep can often be low on our priority list if we get caught up with work in our daily lives. However, sleep is one of the most important factors that can influence our immune system, physical health, mental health and cognitive behavior. Take a moment to notice your body temperature, appetite, energy levels and overall moods on a day when you have not slept your regular sleep hours and you would see a significant difference in these factors.

The reason we see changes in our body when we do not sleep enough is because we are going against our natural sleep-wake rhythms. Internally we carry a circadian timing system or internal clock that can help us to create a natural sleep-wake cycle.  When we reach puberty our circadian rhythm changes to make our sleeping and awakening times more delayed. Oversleeping or under sleeping could lead to changing the natural circadian rhythm.

It is recommended by the National Sleep Foundation that seven to nine hours of sleep is optimal for adults 18 to 64 years old, seven to eight hours for people over 65 and more sleep than adults for those under 18 years of age.

A lack of sleep could cause you to have the following symptoms, including: fatigue, low energy, irritability, lower performance at work, drowsiness, lower concentration and an overall restlessness. People that do not have sufficient sleep can develop health conditions such as obesity, heart disease, and other illnesses.

In todays society, alarm clocks have become a norm in our society to wake up, however they do not allow us to be in tune with our natural sleep-wake cycle. Alarms can cause us to wake up when we are not fully rested and further disrupt our natural internal clocks leading to a variety of sleep disorders.  A dependence on alarms could also pull us further away from being connected to our natural internal clock.

Some ways to reconnect with our internal sleep clocks include: setting a sleep schedule for ourselves, using thirty minute naps instead of long naps in the daytime, avoiding caffeine after 3.30pm, avoiding oversleeping, using electronic devices 14 inches away from your eyes, trying relaxing activities at night such as reading a book, and avoiding electronics one hour before bedtime.

Using the methods discussed here can help you to reconnect with your internal clocks can help bring you back to your natural sleep-cycle rhythms and avoid the need for an alarm clock improving your overall health.

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References

1. Medicine, Darien, IL 2015. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The AASM Manual for the Scoring of Sleep and Associated Events: Rules, Terminology and Technical Specifications, Version 2.2, www.aasmnet.org, American Academy of Sleep, Berry RB, Brooks R, Gamaldo CE, et al.

2. Darien, IL 2014. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. International Classification of Sleep Disorders, 3rd ed, American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

3. Chest 2014; 146: 1387. International classification of sleep disorder – third edition: highlights and modifications. Satia, M.J.