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The sleep timetable for best sleeping hours – Part I

We have probably heard that as an adult one needs, at least, seven hours of sleep at night to feel one’s best, be alert and well rested for the day ahead. But what is the best time to go to sleep, and does it really matter? 

It should have been simply dismissed that one should sleep whenever one feels sleepy! But we cannot let it go like that. This is because sometimes we feel uncontrollably sleepy and practically sleep off at an inappropriate time – such as while in a meeting, at the duty post, eating and even driving. And at other times, we toss and turn in endless expectations for sleep, which would refuse to come when sleep is most naturally and essentially needed to restfully reset the body and brain. 

To decide a good bedtime, it’s important to consider how much sleep it takes to leave one feeling refreshed after sleep. This is termed as “Sleep Needs” which is estimated according to one’s age, hereditary factors, environment and health conditions.

Researchers have found that the time to go to bed for sleep is guided by the individual’s sleep needs, and both are tied to human activities and control systems. Therefore, bedtime can be scheduled from a person’s sleep needs and daily activities, and significantly timed by the control systems like the biological clock.

In most living things especially humans, it has been observed that there is a natural rhythm that involves a cycle of changes in our body’s chemicals or functions that follow a 24-hour cycle and repeat roughly every 24 hours. Also, there is an in-built biological clock that times this natural 24-hour cycle. The biological clock is mainly controlled by daylight and night darkness from the sunlight cycle, environmental temperature as well as other factors; and it also drives the natural sleep-wake cycle. This is the reason why the sleep-wake cycle corresponds to the night-day cycle as seen in us sleeping at night and being awake during the day. As the sun set and darkness shades the environment, our brains perceive, through the lack of light, that it’s time for sleep. 

What is actually responsible for these dramatic events? Some scientists (National Institute of General Medical Sciences, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is the principal medical research agency of America) have helped us to understand the workings of the in-built biological clock. The natural rhythm of changes in our body’s chemicals and functions is indeed the crew of lead actors on the stage. Our eyes capture light or dark changes in the environment and send signals to the special brain cells for sleep or awake mode.

As darkness sets in, the brain receives the signals for sleep mode and activates the secretion of a certain brain chemical, called melatonin. This melatonin secretion is also activated during body and brain fatigue. It’s that tiny burst of melatonin that triggers the in-built brain switch to start the process of getting one to feel tired and sleepy, ready for sleep in a few hours. The brain switch does that by shutting down the alertness signals in the brain. As dawn creeps in, the melatonin secretion is suppressed along with the secretion of alertness chemicals, like cortisol, leading to wakefulness. 

From these perspectives, we are meant to sleep at night and when we are fatigued; go to bed earlier and wake up in the early hours. This matches our biological tendencies for sleep patterns with that of the sun. Therefore, responding and sleeping according to this natural rhythm by the biological clock guarantees one, natural quality sleep.

Maintaining good sleep practices will help us respond better to this natural rhythm. Let us practice healthy habits by ensuring the brain and body’s good health, and sleep-inducing surroundings.

In our next article, we will look at the determination of time to go to bed considering time lag in the natural rhythm, daily activities and sleep need.

Let us remember that when you sleep, where you sleep and how you sleep affect your mental health, physical well-being and living a healthy life. We all need quality sleep to be set for productivity in our endeavours.

Do you need further information on the above subject? Are you looking for ways to maintain quality sleep for general well-being and healthy living? Remember, a doctor is an appropriate person to offer relevant advice for the maintenance of quality sleep and solution to sleep difficulties.

Do you want to contact the Orthopaedic Sleep Consultant, Dr Charles Uzodimma, kindly send your request to [email protected]

Vitafoam Nigeria Plc is the first foam manufacturing company in Nigeria to partner with a Sleep Expert in educating Nigerians on Quality Sleep for Healthy Living. They are truly passionate about quality sleep, healthy living and the general well-being of Nigerians. Vitafoam is proudly Nigerian and constantly supports Nigerians with consistent quality products for comfort and well-being. With Vitafoam, you don’t just sleep, they give you the comfort that gets you recharged. To learn more about Vitafoam, visit www.vitafoamng.com

 

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