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Healthy Sleep & The Circadian Rhythm

Sleep, Circadian Rhythm

How to Improve the Quality of Your Sleep

Back to School Edition

Sleep plays an essential role in the quality of our waking life. Yet, it has become normalized in modern society to treat sleep as a luxury which only some can afford, and others can not. The people who require the highest quality of sleep often get the least of it. For students and educators specifically, this could be due to academic or work related stress, diet, an unbalanced schedule, and artificial stimuli from technology. 

Circadian rhythms are the body’s internal 24 hour sleep-wake cycles which respond to light, dark, and other external stimuli (1). These cycles occur on a microscopic level, within nearly every one of our cells, and also within tissues and specific organs. Our master clock, located in the hypothalamus, regulates these 24 hour cycles and manages how they interact with one another. The retina, located in the eye, has its own circadian rhythm and delivers light information to the brain which, in turn, influences the master clock’s management system. 

Artificial stimuli such as cell phone light or the sound of a television at night can cause disarray in our sleep-wake cycle. This is because whether our eyes are closed, open, or half-open, our retinas are able to detect artificial sensory information and inform the master clock. A similar process occurs with our ears and sound. The master clock will continue to instruct your cells to work, until it is no longer informed of light information and your body will continue the production of serotonin, causing mental stimulation to assist you in your thought or work process. In a relatively natural sleep-wake cycle, the pineal gland located in the epithalamus of the brain will begin producing adequate amounts of melatonin once the influx of sensory input ceases, informing the brain it is night time. In adolescents, circadian rhythms are naturally delayed by up to 2 hours, making them more likely a natural night owl (2).

Unfortunately, the majority of students and educators who spend a large quantity of time in class, must continue homework or other responsibilities which involve technology use into the late night; disrupting their bodies’ natural rhythms. On top of a delayed rhythm, these external stimuli can make it even more difficult to get a sufficient amount of sleep in the midst of a rigid academic schedule. This article will cover the issues that may arise in waking life due to sleep deprivation and how to improve quality of sleep. 

Studies done across all age groups of students demonstrate that students, in general, do not get enough sleep. Within the high school student demographic, 87% of students do not get their recommended 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night. In college students, studies have shown that 70% to 94% of these individuals get less than the recommended 8 hours of sleep every night, and that 50% of these students experience daytime sleepiness (3). Studies that examine academic performance  and sleep deprivation show that students with poor sleep perform worse in school. Educators of  students do not get the sleep they need either, as they are often required to stay up late and wake up early to work, and maintain other life responsibilities. 

The consequences of sleep deprivation, including a few hours of missed sleep each night, can be detrimental in daily life. The effects of sleep deprivation are similar to the cognitive effects of alcohol consumption. Other effects of long term sleep deprivation include irritability and low tolerance, decreased attention span, insulin imbalances, hormonal changes (4), and decreased immunity. These critical effects on health can have a great impact on one’s success in an academic setting, resulting in some students having a disadvantage relative to the students who have the resources they need to get adequate amounts of rest.

Now that we have discussed the dangers of sleep deprivation, let’s discuss four methods for improving sleep hygiene.

1.) Exercise is a great and feasible place to start. According to John Hopkins Medicine, exercise during the day not only improves sleep quality, but increases how quickly one is able to fall asleep. It doesn’t require becoming an athlete, but even a brisk walk may improve sleep quality. While students and educators may not have the time to abandon work for exercise, a lecture, podcast, educational video, or other forms of media can be consumed while exercising to save time.

2.) Caffeine happens to be the lifeline for many involved in academics, consuming caffeine up to 6 hours before bedtime has demonstrated decreases in total sleep time (6). In order to get better rest, enjoy a cup of coffee when the day begins and center a block of work around this time. Do not consume caffeine within 6 hours of heading to bed.

3.) Establish a bed-time self care routine. When it is time to shower, step away from the phone and technology for the hour. Take the time to decompress and unwind from the day. Practice one act of self care, whether it is enjoying a cup of herbal tea or putting on a face mask. Prioritize heading to bed refreshed and comfortable.

4.) Supplementation is a great way to mitigate the effects of insomnia and sleep deprivation. IV Lounge & Wellness Center’s Sleep Sweet supplement was mindfully cultivated for those who have difficulty relaxing prior to bedtime. This unique blend simplifies the transition from work and school life to bedtime. These are just a few things that can be done to assist in getting longer, more restful sleep. At IV Lounge & Wellness center, our priority is to help you optimize your health through education and vitamin therapy.

We understand that every individual and lifestyle is different.For any questions, comments, or to inquire about our Sleep Sweet supplement, please contact your nearest IV Lounge & Wellness Center office.

We wish you and your loved ones a happy and healthy back to school season!

 

References: 

  1. Reddy, Sujana, et al. “Physiology, Circadian Rhythm.” StatPearls, StatPearls Publishing, 8 May 2022.
  2. Owens, Judith A, and Miriam R Weiss. “Insufficient sleep in adolescents: causes and consequences.” Minerva pediatrica vol. 69,4 (2017): 326-336. doi:10.23736/S0026-4946.17.04914-3
  3.  Hershner, Shelley. “Is sleep a luxury that college students cannot afford?.” Sleep health vol. 1,1 (2015): 13-14. doi:10.1016/j.sleh.2014.12.006
  4. Leproult, Rachel, and Eve Van Cauter. “Role of sleep and sleep loss in hormonal release and metabolism.” Endocrine development vol. 17 (2010): 11-21. doi:10.1159/000262524
  5. Drake, Christopher et al. “Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed.” Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine vol. 9,11 1195-200. 15 Nov. 2013, doi:10.5664/jcsm.3170

 

 

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