How to Get the Best Sleep with the Biological Clock and Circadian Rhythm

There is an ebb and flow to daily life that is full of various rhythms working constantly together to shape our days and to help us operate. Ever wonder why you feel sleepy during some hours and more alert during others? Have you thought about what causes such unique bodily patterns and why are we so prone to experiencing them? Well, it all boils down to the most basic daily rhythm human beings live by– the sleep-wake cycle, which just happens to be related to the cycle of the sun. But when asking how to get the best sleep, is it easier said than done?

It is a vital part of the circadian rhythms (circum means “around” and dies, “day”) governed by the body’s internal or biological clock housed deep within the brain. And since sleep is regulated by sleep/wake homeostasis and the circadian biological clock, fully understanding these particular body systems can be the first step to ensuring a better night’s rest and a more productive work day. Let’s take a look at the processes that determine how to get the best sleep.

The Biological Clock

Plenty of past and still ongoing research has discovered that the body’s clock is responsible for sleepiness and wakefulness, as well as for other important systems like hunger, mental alertness, mood, stress, heart function, and immunity that work also on a daily rhythm. Keeping the body’s clock and internal cycle on schedule, in order, and in check can often be one of the best things to do for overall health and wellness.

Basically, the internal circadian biological clock works to regulate the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the entire day. It is controlled by a part of the brain called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN) — a group of cells in the hypothalamus responding to light and dark signals that can signal to other parts of the brain controlling hormones, body temperature, and other functions that may cause feelings of sleepiness or wakefulness. The various rhythmic patterns and inner of workings within this very personal bodily timepiece is an individual’s circadian rhythm.

The Circadian Rhythm

Known as the sleep/wake cycle within the body’s clock, the circadian rhythm is a key part of the natural internal system serving as a complex timekeeper specifically designed to regulate feelings of sleepiness/wakefulness over a 24-hour period—it also happens to be readily influenced by the process of light, which is why humans seem most alive and alert while the sun is brightly shining and why we tend to ready ourselves for bed once the moon emerges to brighten up the dark night sky.

In most cases, circadian rhythms cause levels of wakefulness to rise and dip throughout the course of the day. Most people feel the strongest desire to sleep between 1 am and 3 pm (i.e. the post lunch boom or that afternoon crash) and then again between 2 am and 4 am during the wee hours of morning. It’s why there are early birds and “morning people” and why some other individuals function better instead during the later evening hours.

Circadian rhythms slowly change as people age, with younger (especially teenage) bodies being programmed to sleep for more total hours, as well as to go to bed and wake up later in the day. They also heavily influence everything from hormone release and body temperature, to, of course, our sleep-wake cycles, which is why following the body’s natural cues regarding when to go to sleep and wake up will lead to a more balanced and less disrupted circadian rhythm.

In order to avoid various sleep disorders, such as insomnia, along with obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and other health risks abnormal circadian rhythms have been associated with, considering these easy breezy tips can help keep you focused and your circadian rhythm functioning as it properly should. Here is how to get the best sleep.

1. Stick to a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Though a regular bedtime is a one key part of the equation to maintaining a good circadian rhythm, waking up at the same time every day will also very much help keep all rhythmic patterns in check. It is often quite tempting to grab some extra shut-eye on weekends or to give into the pressure of pulling all-nighters in a haste to complete work but doing so can easily throw off the body’s clock.

2. Go for an A.M. Walk

Who doesn’t love waking early and greeting the rising sun in person while on a brisk early stroll? Morning exposure to the sun (or even indoor light) offers not just a nice boost of energy, but also helps reset the circadian rhythm. Even spending some brief time outdoors each day can provide enough sun exposure to signal to the brain that it is time to waken and start a new day. If you are in a rush and have no time to actually take a walk, try simply raising the blinds or switching on your brightest light instead. Just let it shine.

3. Limit Evening Tech

While bright lights in the A.M. are a good thing, they can throw off the body’s clock in the P.M. by confusing the brain into thinking it’s still daytime. Artificial blue light, such as those found in cell phones, tablets, and laptops, are often times the worst culprits to disrupting sleep cycles in the late hours. It is advised that all tech devices are powered-down at least several hours prior to bedtime.

Let Us Help!

Disruption to a body’s rhythms usually has negative effects in both the short and long terms. Consistently toying with the body’s natural cycles can cause serious problems, especially as science continues to discover important connections between a disrupted biological clock and chronic health issues.

The primary concern of Sleep MD NYC is to help you stay healthy and to let you properly achieve the rest and relaxation you deserve each day and every night. For more information on ways to keep that biological clock in check for better sleeping patterns, please reach out and contact Dr. Shukla to get the treatment and care that’ll let you live life to the absolute fullest.

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