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January 18, 2020, 09:58:36 am

Author Topic: Regulation of sleep-wake cycle & why you should care  (Read 175 times)

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Bri MT

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Regulation of sleep-wake cycle & why you should care
« on: August 21, 2019, 09:09:10 pm »
Sleep is a cycle
As we all know, sleep occurs in cycles – sometimes we’re asleep and sometimes we’re awake. This cycle is called the sleep-wake cycle, and since the sleep-wake cycle is roughly 24 hours long it’s classified as a circadian rhythm.

The timing of the sleep-wake cycle is influenced by a hormone called melatonin which is, in turn, influenced by time cues known as zeitgebers. An example of this is exposure to light (especially blue light). When light levels are low, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) – which is in the hypothalamus  just above where the optic nerves – signals the pineal gland to secrete melatonin when light levels are low. By contrast, when light is detected the SCN promotes cortisol (stress hormone) release and increase in body temperature.

Overall, high melatonin levels are associated with drowsiness and low levels are associated with wakefulness. When there are no zeitgebers available to regulate melatonin release, the cycle extends to 25 hours and people both wake and sleep slightly later.
When talking overall about how these mechanisms work, you can refer to the ‘biological clock’ as being responsible for biological rhythms. However, it’s often best to specifically refer to melatonin and the hypothalamus as these are both explicitly in the syllabus.

Aside from the syllabus, it's a good idea to remember that artificial light can also act as a zeitgeber and promote wakefulness. Please please please do not underestimate the importance of sleep to being able to study effectively and have decent wellbeing during the QCE. The disadvantages of sleep deprivation aren't just a nifty academic thing - it has real potential to impact your life. I know that I, for one, notice a big difference when I've been sleeping properly for a few weeks or fallen into bad sleep habits.

Here are some impacts of partial sleep deprivation:
Easily irritated /short tempered
Amplified emotional responses
Low impulse control
Difficulty judging others emotions
Reduced empathy
More likely to over react

Lapses in selective attention
Lower ability to maintain focus
Irrational thinking
Impaired learning & memory
Reduced ability to think clearly
    -Especially on simple tasks
    -Especially for boring tasks

Sleep inertia
Excessive sleepiness
Micro sleeps
Impaired behaviour control
Reduced motor coordination

Here are some things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene (note: I'm not a medical professional; if you're persistently having issues consider seeing one)

•   Regular schedule just prior to sleep and maintaining regular circadian rhythm
•   Associating the bed and bedroom with sleep
o   If you can't sleep, get out of bed for a while then try again
•   Light exposrure
o   Exposure to natural light during day
o   Avoidance of exposure at night
•   Avoiding consuming food and some drugs before sleep
o   Alcohol can make it harder to stay asleep
o   Dinner should be at least two hours before sleep
o   Stimulants can make it harder to fall asleep
•   Exercise
o   Avoid vigorous exercise in the hours before sleep
o   Exercise for at least 20 minutes during the day

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