Sleep and Circadian Rhythms

Sleep and Circadian Rhythms






Sleep and Circadian Rhythms

The twenty first century has brought with it improvements in technology and modernization making human beings so busy that the normal twenty four-hour day is almost inadequate. Regardless of this, human beings are incapable of working twenty four hours a day and they take a break, mostly due to the need for sleep. Sleep is a state of unconsciousness from which one can be aroused by various stimuli (Guyton et al, 2006). In this state, an individual not only gets time to rest but also to get refreshed before beginning a new day.

Every individual has sleeping habits and patterns that are unique to them. I get about six to seven hours of sleep every night which I think is adequate to me. I do not sleep during the day and I consider my sleep deep, restful and also of good quality since it is not episodic and is rarely associated with vivid dreams which may interrupt the continuity and quality of sleep. If I could change my sleeping habits and patterns, I would go to bed earlier and wake up earlier than I currently do. This is because if I go to bed early I am guaranteed to wake up early and do more constructive work as compared to the amount of work I would do if I stayed up late.

The importance of sleep to every individual cannot be underestimated. Sleep enables one to get physical rest after a long day’s work. It also restores balance in behavior, brain activity and other functional body systems including metabolic-caloric balance, thermal and immune components. (Barret et al, 2010). All sleep is not created equal. Onset and duration of sleep depends on several factors including the last episode of sleep, its duration and an individual’s usual pattern of sleep. Sleep is also in two types including rapid eye movement and slow wave sleep. These types are created differently.

Circadian rhythms synchronize or entrain various physiological processes and body functions with the night and day cycle in the environment. They are controlled by the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) and through secretion of the hormone melatonin by the pineal gland. The circadian rhythm is related to sleep in that exposure to light delays the onset of sleep and increases time when one is awake. Changes in the biological clock changes the circadian rhythm due to variation in time spent by various age groups in various stages of sleep. Rapid eye movement sleep is characterized by increased body activity and movements as compared to slow wave sleep. Slow wave sleep has four stages. Neonates have mostly rapid eye movement sleep and tend to spend more time sleeping. As they grow older, this rapid eye movement sleep reduces in amount and then plateaus as old age sets in. Children spend more time sleeping and stage four sleep as compared to adults. (Barret et al, 2010)

My classmate explains that she rarely gets adequate sleep since she finds it very difficult to fall asleep once she is in bed. She also explains that she has different sleeping patterns for each night. I would recommend that she avoids sleeping at daytime and avoid taking caffeinated beverages such as tea or coffee right before going to bed. She can also avoid taking heavy meals right before bed time. And ensure that she sees natural light during the day. (Epstein et al, 2007).

It is clearly evident that adequate sleep is necessary and important to every individual and to a society as a whole. Sleeping habits and patterns can always be changed by an individual in order to adopt good sleeping habits and patterns. This can greatly improve an individual’s productivity.


Barret E.K., Barman S.M, Boitano S.,Brooks H.L (2010)Ganong’s Review of Medical

Physiology: McGrawHill

Epstein L. Mardon S. (2007) The Harvard Medical School guide to a Good Night’s Sleep:

McGrawHill Professional.

Guyton C. A., Hall J.E. (2006) Textbook of Medical Physiology: Elsevier Inc.

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