As people grow older it becomes more common to have a sleep schedule that is irregular. Work, lifestyle and many other factors can account for not being able to go to bed at the same time each day.
While this may not be a problem for many, those with insomnia will find that this can make going to bed much more difficult.
Why Be Regular?
Individuals that suffer from insomnia are sure to notice that one of the top sleep hygiene tips given is to create a regular sleep schedule. This is due to the fact that sleeping patterns affect the body’s internal clock as well as its circadian rhythms.
Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism's environment.
They are found in most living things, including animals, plants and many tiny microbes. The study of circadian rhythms is called chronobiology.
The body clock is responsible for alerting the system of when it should be asleep and when it should be awake. Circadian rhythms on the other hand are the biological 24- hour cycles that occur in the body.
These cycles include temperature, hormonal production, alertness, sleep, brainwave activity and more.
Circadian rhythms are important in determining human sleep patterns. The body's master clock, or SCN, controls the production of melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy.
Since it is located just above the optic nerves, which relay information from the eyes to the brain, the SCN receives information about incoming light. When there is less light—like at night—the SCN tells the brain to make more melatonin so you get drowsy.
The body clock and circadian can both become affected by several factors, including a change in routine.
Irregular sleeping patterns brought about by changes in routine can affect the amount of light exposure that an individual gets. The system’s body clock often sets itself based on the quantity of exposure to light.
Additionally, it can cause natural sleep time to overlap with regular awake activities such as being in school or going to work. As a result, it becomes difficult to fall asleep.
Establishing a regular sleep schedule ensures that the body’s circadian rhythm is properly set so the body can signal sleep and alertness properly.
Implementing a regular Sleep Schedule
Circadian rhythms can influence sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, body temperature and other important bodily functions. They have been linked to various sleep disorders, such as insomnia.
Abnormal circadian rhythms have also been associated with obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder.
Understanding the importance of maintaining regular sleeping habits is just the beginning. The more difficult part is implementing this.
Understandably, daily routines may be affected by different things, however, as much as possible try to establish a time for sleeping and waking up every day.
Also, keep in mind that lost sleep should not be made up for. Many people tend to think that if they lose a few hours of sleep, they can make up for it by getting up later or taking a nap during the day.
Doing this will reset the circadian rhythm. If sleep is lost, just go to bed at the same time that you normally would.
Here's an informative video on "Understanding Circadian Rhythms":
Although these sleep hygiene habits may be difficult to carry out and will need discipline, it is very important. Once the body has set a cycle to follow, it will stick to it and make getting a good night’s sleep much easier.