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The Importance of Sleep Schedules

By Randi Morse

Isn't it funny how, when we are children, the last thing we want to do is go to sleep. However, as adults, sleep sounds like a wonderful thing. Our lives get so busy that we often don't prioritize sleep; whenever we do have a few precious moments of relaxation, the last thing we want to do is spend that time sleeping. Remember how your parents used to enforce a strict sleep schedule when you were young? It turns out, once again, that your parents were right.

Circadian Rhythm

Your body has an internal clock. That clock is the reason why you wake up so early on the weekend, because your body knows what time it is supposed to wake up. The internal clock is known as circadian rhythm, and it is a key component in regulating what is known as the sleep-wake cycle. Your body makes melatonin, a natural chemical that helps you fall asleep. Your body uses your circadian rhythm, as well as the amount of light in your environment, to figure out how much melatonin it should make and when to wake you up.

Irregular Sleep Schedules

Our bodies crave routine. When you throw off the sleep-wake cycle, there are almost always effects. You may find that you are irritable, have mood swings or concentration problems, or that you feel drowsy all the time. People who have inconsistent sleep schedules also tend to report that they struggle with restless sleep. This means that the body isn't able to get deep into the REM cycle, denying the brain the chance to rest and get restored. 

Consistent Sleep Schedules

Creating a consistent sleep schedule doesn't necessarily mean that you have to go to bed, and wake up, the same time that everyone else does. It means that you need to find a sleep schedule that works for your needs. People on the night shift, for example, will want to wake up much later in the day than those who work a day shift. As a general rule of thumb, try to get your body into bed at least nine hours before you want to wake up. This will give you a little time to rest and relax and allow your body to drift off naturally to sleep while still getting the eight hours that most doctors recommend. Above all else, listen to your body. It sends subtle signals about what it needs. If you find yourself irritable and dealing with mood swings, it may just be that you need a more consistent sleep schedule.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Peachtree Corners, Ga.

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