It may sound like a form of music played by aliens in Star Wars, but circadian rhythm is 100-percent human.
It may sound like a form of music played by aliens in Star Wars™, but circadian rhythm is 100-percent human.
Also known as your sleep/wake cycle, circadian rhythm is a 24-hour internal clock running in the background of your brain. The rhythm switches between drowsiness and alertness at regular intervals, which is why people tend to feel energized or sleepy at around the same times every day. Raring to go at 10am? Ready to doze off just after lunchtime? You get the idea…
By helping you fall asleep and stay that way until you’re ready to rise, a steady circadian rhythm benefits your health big-time. On the other hand, if your rhythm gets disrupted — say, by daylight savings time, jet lag, shift work, or a late night — it can make it more difficult to get the amount of sleep you need to stay healthy.
Your circadian rhythm works best when you follow a regular sleep schedule. By going to bed at about same time every night and getting up at about the same time every morning — that’s right, even on weekends — you’re more likely to get the shuteye you need. So if you’re watching Star Wars Episode 4 for the 58th time, make sure you leave enough time for the whole thing before bedtime.
Somewhere between 7 and 9 hours is the ideal sleep window for guys between the ages of 26 and 65, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s “Recommended Sleep” chart.
During sleep your brain strengthens memories and skills learned while you were awake in a process called consolidation. Solid shut-eye has also been linked to self-control, focus and avoiding depression. So whether you’re filing paperwork or duelling with Darth Vader, sleep helps you get the job done and feel good doing it.
Research has shown that well-rested guys have less body fat than those who are sleep deprived. Plus, getting enough sleep keeps your appetite in check. As a big-time bonus, a slimmer, fitter you is bound to get more attention from your significant other, who may also be charmed by your sleep-strengthened intuition. Sleep, it turns out, plays an important role when it comes to reading emotions, a recent study suggests. You don’t need The Force when you’ve got sleep on your side!
A lack of sleep can cause tissue inflammation, which has in turn been linked to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging. Sleep has also been shown to reduce stress, which can help lower your blood pressure.
Just kidding! Although it’s fair to say that cutting down on duels with Darth Vader is another way to reduce stress and live longer…
How do you get a good night sleep at night? Share your tips in the comments below.
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Adam Bisby is a Toronto-based freelance journalist and father of two. His award-winning stories have appeared in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and National Post newspapers, in magazines like Explore, Reader’s Digest, International Traveller and Canadian Family, and on websites including MSN, MSN Canada, and DontChangeMuch.ca. Visit Adam’s website for more details on his award winning work.