How Do Circadian Rhythms Work
Circadian rhythms are coordinated by a master clock in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus . Located in the hypothalamus, the SCN is a cluster of approximately 20,000 nerve cells. The SCN sends out commands directing the body to activate certain pathways based on the time of day.
Many cells in the body also have their own intrinsic rhythms . The SCN’s job is to synchronize these rhythms so that we don’t wake up in the middle of the night wanting to eat, or experience a sudden lapse in energy just as dawn is breaking. Over the course of the day, circadian rhythm fluctuations in appetite, energy expenditure, and other processes keep the body running efficiently .
What Does Sleep Look Like In Older Adults
According to their internal body clock, most older adults need to go to sleep around 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. and wake up at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. Many people fight their natural inclination to sleep and choose to go to bed several hours later instead. Unfortunately, the body clock still kicks in and sends a wake-up call around 3 a.m., resulting in disturbed sleep from that point onward.
In terms of sleep quality, older adults spend more time in light sleep and less time in deep sleep and rapid eye movement sleep. Light sleep is less restful, so the average older adult will wake up three or four times a night. Its common for older adults to wake up and fall asleep more suddenly compared to younger adults, leading to the feeling that you are spending most of the night awake.
Daytime naps are a common coping mechanism for inadequate sleep. However, daytime napping might make it even harder to fall asleep at night. They push bedtime back and set the stage for another sleepless night and so the cycle continues.
On the whole, older adults get much less sleep on average than younger adults, even though their sleep needs are actually the same. Most older adults sleep only six-and-a-half to seven hours a night, falling short of the recommended seven to eight hours. Older adults also seem to have more trouble adapting to new sleep rhythms, so changes to their schedule might be more difficult to manage.
Enforced Longer Or Shorter Cycles
Various studies on humans have made use of enforced sleep/wake cycles strongly different from 24 hours, such as those conducted by Nathaniel Kleitman in 1938 and Derk-Jan Dijk and Charles Czeisler in the 1990s . Because people with a normal circadian clock cannot entrain to such abnormal day/night rhythms, this is referred to as a forced desynchrony protocol. Under such a protocol, sleep and wake episodes are uncoupled from the body’s endogenous circadian period, which allows researchers to assess the effects of circadian phase on aspects of sleep and wakefulness including sleep latency and other functions – both physiological, behavioral, and cognitive.
Studies also show that Cyclosa turbinata is unique in that its locomotor and web-building activity cause it to have an exceptionally short-period circadian clock, about 19 hours. When C. turbinata spiders are placed into chambers with periods of 19, 24, or 29 hours of evenly split light and dark, none of the spiders exhibited decreased longevity in their own circadian clock. These findings suggest that C. turbinata do not suffer the same costs of extreme desynchronization as do other species of animals.
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Effect Of Lightdark Cycle
The rhythm is linked to the lightdark cycle. Animals, including humans, kept in total darkness for extended periods eventually function with a free-running rhythm. Their sleep cycle is pushed back or forward each “day”, depending on whether their “day”, their endogenous period, is shorter or longer than 24 hours. The environmental cues that reset the rhythms each day are called zeitgebers . Totally blind subterranean mammals are able to maintain their endogenous clocks in the apparent absence of external stimuli. Although they lack image-forming eyes, their photoreceptors are still functional they do surface periodically as well.
Free-running organisms that normally have one or two consolidated sleep episodes will still have them when in an environment shielded from external cues, but the rhythm is not entrained to the 24-hour lightdark cycle in nature. The sleepwake rhythm may, in these circumstances, become out of phase with other circadian or ultradian rhythms such as metabolic, hormonal, CNS electrical, or neurotransmitter rhythms.
Recent research has influenced the design of spacecraft environments, as systems that mimic the lightdark cycle have been found to be highly beneficial to astronauts.Light therapy has been trialed as a treatment for sleep disorders.
The History & Timeline Of Sleep Science
Back in ancient times, people thought our brains completely shut off while we are sleeping. Little did we know that the complete opposite is true.
Based on this Harvard Medical Departments timeline, here are some of the major scientific discoveries related to sleep throughout history:
American Academy of Sleep merges two stages of sleep, resulting in only 4 stages of sleep instead of 5.
Anything that talks about 5 stages of sleep have been outdated for over a decade now.
Even though scientists have been researching sleep for years now, we still arent sure why we sleep! Of course, there are many speculations, but nothing is proven yet.
In the words of Dr. William Dement:
We sleep in order to not be sleepy.
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Maintain A Consistent Sleep Schedule
Many assume having a set bedtime will keep their circadian rhythm on track. This isnt the case its also important to wake up at the same time every day. A consistent sleep-wake routine will train your master clock to help you avoid waking up throughout the night. Resist the urge to catch up on sleep after a restless night. Its common to want to take a long nap or sleep in on the weekends, but this can make your circadian rhythm worse.
Melatonin usually begins triggering the body to rest around 9 p.m. and starts slowing down around 7:30 a.m. Try to orient your sleep schedule around these times with extra time for winding down before bed. If your routine is very different from these times, adjust it slowly in 15-minute increments every few days.
What Is Sleep And Why Is It Important
Until the 1950s, most people thought of sleep as a passive, dormant part of our daily lives. Fast forward 70 years and we now know that our brains are very active during sleep. Moreover, sleep affects our daily functioning and our physical and mental health in many ways that we are just beginning to understand.
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Wake Up Happier And More Refreshed
When analyzing your sleep-stage data, keep in mind that the percentages above are based on broad averages. To compare your stats to the averages of others who are the same age range and gender, click the sleep tile on your dashboard and then choose Benchmark. Even then, though, both Grandner and Siebern urge you to note that every individual has different sleep needs.
Everybodys a little different, says Grandner. As long as you give yourself enough time to sleep, and you dont have any kind of sleep disorder thats keeping you out of any certain stages of sleep, your body will figure it out using its own rhythms and drives.
Siebern agrees: We can do things to help improve the quality of our sleep, but we all have a baseline that determines how much of each sleep stage well get. There really is no ideal.
Ideal is whatever your body does given enough of an opportunity, says Grandner. Ask yourself, suggests Siebern, how you feel. If your sleep stages are falling outside the averages but you feel refreshed and engaged, then youre likely getting the quantity and quality of sleep you need. Use that as your baseline by which to compare future sleep sessions.
Effect Of Circadian Disruption
Mutations or deletions of clock gene in mice have demonstrated the importance of body clocks to ensure the proper timing of cellular/metabolic events clock-mutant mice are hyperphagic and obese, and have altered glucose metabolism. In mice, deletion of the Rev-ErbA alpha clock gene facilitates diet-induced obesity and changes the balance between glucose and lipid utilization predisposing to diabetes. However, it is not clear whether there is a strong association between clock gene polymorphisms in humans and the susceptibility to develop the metabolic syndrome.
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Tips For Getting Enough Sleep Each Night
Practicing sleep hygiene is crucial to receiving an adequate amount of rest on a nightly basis. Key aspects of sleep hygiene include:
Follow a consistent sleep schedule: Go to bed and wake up at the same times, even on the weekends or when you’re on vacation.
Chronic sleep deprivation should be taken seriously. If you aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis, consult with your doctor or another credentialed physician about ways to address this issue and improve your sleep allotment.
Sleep Stages And The Metabolism
Its believed that NREM sleep is the anabolic part of the entire sleep period. This phase is characterized by updating several of the bodys systems: nervous, muscular, immune, bone. However, in the case of sleep disorders, the first stage may be catabolic, which can impact ones metabolism.
The reasons for this are different. REM sleep is associated with intense brain activity. It has been theorized that this is when our temporary memory becomes permanent, which is one of the leading benefits of REM sleep.
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Understanding The Five Stages Of Sleep
written by Dr. Lina Velikova, MD / May 26, 2019
Were all interested in and dependent on our sleep patterns. Of course, we are always trying to resist this fact. We try to spend more time working, learning, or having fun, all at the expense of the number of hours spent in bed. Unfortunately , we cannot deceive our bodies for too long.
Today, were going to take a few steps to understand the phenomenon of sleep, what the stages of sleep are, and why we need to get a normal nights sleep!
How Can I Improve My Sleep
The sleep-wake cycle can be improved through better sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is the sum of healthy habits surrounding a regular sleep schedule. Elements of sleep hygiene include:
- Waking up and going to sleep at consistent times
- Exposing yourself to natural light during the daytime
- Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly
- Avoiding electronics that emit blue light waves before bedtime
- Refraining from caffeine too close to bedtime
- Keeping the bedroom dark, cool, and quiet
Sleep is a critical aspect of overall human health. Making sleep hygiene a priority is a good idea. However, its important to remember that certain sleep and circadian rhythm disorders may not be improved or managed without the help of a doctor.
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Biological Clock Vs Circadian Rhythm
It is commonly thought that the circadian rhythm in humans is the same as a biological clock this is not true. The human biological clock is made up of small proteins that interact with all different types of cells in the body, which makes up this unique timing device in humans. It is also what regulates the circadian rhythm . Lots of different factors can affect the bodys biological clock, the most common of which is daylight.
How Much Of Your Sleep Should Be Rem
Although there is no formal consensus on how much REM sleep you should get, we have to keep some facts in mind. Experts believe that dreaming helps you to process emotions and consolidate your memories. Dreams are most common at this stage. Therefore, you have to obtain enough REM sleep.
For most adults, REM takes up about 2025% of their sleep. If someone gets excessive amounts of REM, theyre more likely to suffer from depression.
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Dhomeostatic And Circadian Sleep Regulation
The sleep/wake cycle is not solely under circadian control. Homeostatic regulatory mechanisms pose another important influence on sleep-propensity. Sleep propensity clearly builds up when the time spent awake increases. Furthermore, an extended period of wakefulness is followed by a compensatory increase of sleep afterward. Several experimental paradigms have been developed to disentangle the circadian and homeostatic contributions to sleep regulation. Examples include constant routine studies in which the influence of environmental and behavioral factors are kept as constant as possible over the experimental period, so that the 24-hour variation measured in a variable can be attributed mainly to the endogenous pacemaker. Forced desynchrony studies use a sleep/wake schedule with a period clearly different from 24 hours that is forced upon the subjects, under constant dim-light conditions that do not entrain the circadian pacemaker. In this paradigm there is an increasing loss of synchronization between the rhythms imposed by the circadian pacemaker and the artificially induced sleep/wake cycle. This makes it possible to determine the influence of both circadian and homeostatic processes on a certain variable under study.
Timothy Roehrs, Thomas Roth, in, 2019
How Are Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders Diagnosed
The diagnosis of circadian rhythm sleep disorders can be challenging and often requires a consultation with a sleep specialist.
Your healthcare specialist will gather information about your sleep and work schedule history and ask you to keep a sleep diary for one to two weeks. Your healthcare provider will also exclude other sleep and medical disorders, including narcolepsy, which often mimics delayed sleep phase disorder.
Sleep diaries are often used together with a wrist watch-like device that records sleep and wake activity over the course of days to weeks. Sometimes overnight and daytime sleep studies may be required. Sleep studies are tailored to address the sleep pattern of the individual. For example, an overnight sleep study might be performed during the day in a shift worker. Measuring body temperature and melatonin levels are other useful tests.
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Is There Meaning In Dreams
Some scientists believe that dreams are the cortexs attempt to find meaning in the random signals that it receives during REM sleep. The cortex is the part of the brain that interprets and organizes information from the environment during consciousness. It may be that, given random signals from the pons during REM sleep, the cortex tries to interpret these signals as well, creating a story out of fragmented brain activity.
Tips For Improved Sleep
All stages of sleep are important and your body naturally regulates your sleep cycles to make sure you get what you need.
Tools like the Oura Ring can help you monitor your sleep patterns and generate a Sleep Score each night to help you improve your sleep.
Check out these patterns to see if your sleep is being disrupted:
- Increase in deep sleep after a hard workout: Exercise can increase your bodys prioritization of deep sleep the night after an intensive workout.1
- Higher REM rebound after sleep deprivation: When you recover from a period of sleep deprivation, your body prioritizes deep sleep for the first few nights to repair your body and prepare for action. After several nights of sufficient deep sleep, REM sleep rebounds to focus on your brain.
- Interrupted sleep cycles after caffeine:Caffeine can increase the time it takes for you to fall asleep, cutting your sleep period short. Shorter sleep periods disproportionately cut down on your total REM sleep, as REM cycles are more likely to occur in later sleep cycles.
We all have those days when we just need our coffee. However, taking a look at your nightly patterns and acting on your desire to improve your sleep can help you face those days well rested.
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Sleeps Impact On The Immune System
Neurons that control sleep interact closely with the immune system. As anyone who has had the flu knows, infectious diseases tend to make us feel sleepy. This probably happens because cytokines, chemicals our immune systems produce while fighting an infection, are powerful sleep-inducing chemicals. Sleep may help the body conserve energy and other resources that the immune system needs to mount an attack.
How Does Sleep Work
Every person has an internal timekeeping system known informally as the “circadian clock,” which is located in the hypothalamus near the front of the brain. The circadian clock is programmed to reset, or “entrain,” every 24 hours. This 24-hour cycle, the circadian rhythm, is guided by natural light and plays a major role in hormone production, as well as mood, appetite and digestion, body temperature, and other bodily functions.
This clock consists of roughly 20,000 nuclei clustered together to form a structure called the suprachiasmatic nucleus . During the day, the retinas in your eyes perceive natural sunlight and transmit signals through a nerve tract that leads directly to the SCN. These signals inform the brain whether it is day or night.
In the evening as natural light begins to disappear, the pineal gland in your brain will produce melatonin, a natural hormone that induces feelings of relaxation and sleepiness. When you wake up in the morning and your eyes perceive natural light, the body will produce another hormone, cortisol, that promotes alertness and wakefulness. The brain stem also communicates with the hypothalamus to produce GABA, a hormone that decreases arousals and helps the body wind down.
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