The dictionary definition of sleep is a naturally recurring condition of rest, in which there is unconsciousness with the nervous system inactive and muscles relaxed.
A good night’s sleep is vital for physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. It is the time when the body repairs and rebuilds itself.
Normal sleep patterns are characterised by a regular bedtime and a similar amount of sleep each night.
Your sleep pattern is set by your body clock. This follows the 24-hour clock and is called the circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock running in the background to carry out essential functions and processes.
During the sleep/wake cycle, different systems of the body follow circadian rhythms that are synchronized with a master clock in the brain. This master clock is directly influenced by environmental cues, especially light – which is why circadian rhythms are tied to the cycle of day and night.
When properly aligned, our circadian rhythm can promote consistent and restorative sleep. But when this rhythm is thrown off, it can create significant sleeping problems.
Research is also revealing that circadian rhythms play an integral role in diverse aspects of physical and mental health.
Light exposure causes our master clock to send signals that promote alertness and help keep us awake and active. As night falls, the master clock initiates the production of melatonin, which is a hormone to promote sleep. It then keeps transmitting that signal to help us keep stay asleep through the night
This cycle then gives the body opportunity to have a restorative rest period ready for increased daytime activity.