Maintaining a regular sleep rhythm is important for our health. We feel tired and listless without a regular sleep rhythm. In the long run, suffering from a disturbed sleep rhythm can even have serious negative effects on our health. In this article, we will explain how you can re-establish your sleep rhythm if it is interrupted by work or of travel.
What is a sleep rhythm?
A sleep rhythm refers to the times when we go to sleep or wake up. If you want to get a good night’s sleep, this schedule should be as regular as possible, so that the body can get used to the time it takes to fall asleep and wake up.
However, outside influences can quickly disturb our sleep rhythm. If we’ve had a restless night, we notice the next day that our ability to concentrate is negatively affected and our ability to perform at work is diminished. If the sleep disturbance lasts for several days, the physical symptoms only increase, leading to mood swings, muscle tension, increased irritability and other complaints.
When it comes to your sleep rhythm, there are no set rules. When it’s best to go to sleep and get up again varies from person to person. Studies show that night owls and larks truly do exist. Age also plays a role, in that teenagers naturally want to stay up late and sleep in, while the elderly sometimes go to bed in the late evening and rise before sunrise. As such, listen to your body and decide for yourself which sleep rhythm is most restful for you.
Why is sleep so important?
Sleep makes up a fundamental part of our lives. On average, a person spends about 26 years sleeping. Everyone needs sleep, but as we said above, the duration required depends on one’s age and individual needs.
Sleep not only regenerates the body, but also brings rest to the brain. While we sleep, Important information is stored in the long-term memory and new experiences are processed. All of this happens through the creation and sorting of new nerve connections in the brain. Through this process, important information is separated from unimportant information.
For this reason, a good night’s sleep improves our ability to remember newly-learned facts. Frequent interruptions to our sleep, on the other hand, increase our forgetfulness. This is why it is so important for high schoolers and university students to get enough sleep.
Sleep is also crucial for a strong and healthy immune system. At night, we all go through five different sleep phases. In the deep sleep phase, the pituitary gland in our brain releases growth hormones, which causes children to grow and allows adult bodies to repair themselves. In addition, the body breaks down pathogenic substances while we sleep, thereby protecting us from infections.
What happens when our sleep rhythm is disturbed?
As stated above, a regular sleep rhythm is important for our health. Since everyone is different, the times at which we fall asleep and wake up also differ. As a rule, these are influenced by our individual habits, our family obligations and our jobs. If you always go to bed at the same time and are able to get a good night’s sleep, you are much likelier to enjoy a long life and good health than someone who doesn’t.
Irregular sleep schedules that negatively impact our sleep leave our minds and bodies insufficiently rested. When this happens, our bodies produce more stress hormones, which have a negative effect on our heart health in particular. Cardiovascular diseases can thus be better prevented by a regular sleep rhythm.
A study from Duke University Medical Center shows that the blood values and blood pressure of subjects with irregular sleep habits were different from those with a regular sleep schedule. Participants with irregular sleep patterns were also found to have higher blood sugar levels. Furthermore, these subjects’ blood pressure and body mass index were also higher than in subjects with regular sleep schedules. A very irregular sleep schedule was also associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and hypertension.
How to establish a sleep rhythm
The best method to get a good night’s sleep is to establish a routine. However, it’s not always possible to go to bed or wake up at the same time every day, especially when work schedules or habits change. That said, to establish a regular sleep rhythm, it's best to go to bed and get up at the same time as often as possible. And that goes for weekends or holidays, too. The more regular your bedtime, the easier it will be to establish a rhythm. When going to bed and waking up, it’s best to let the sun be your guide, as the transition from day and night directly influences our sleep-wake rhythm.
This is regulated by the release of hormones and our own body temperature. For example, at night the body secretes the hormone melatonin, which promotes sleep. In the morning, more cortisol is produced, which makes us feel more alert. Our body temperature also drops in the evening, only to rise again in the morning hours.
To establish your own sleep rhythm, you should ask yourself the following questions: How much sleep do I need? Are you more of a morning person or do you prefer to be active late at night? To determine your sleep type, it is best to keep a log of your sleep behavior over several weeks.
How to change your sleep rhythm
The circumstances that influence our sleep can easily change, thereby forcing us to adjust our sleep rhythm to our ever-changing environment. Where our sleep is concerned, a little time and foresight go a long ways. If, for example, you’re on vacation and have made the habit of getting up around lunchtime, when you otherwise rise at the crack of dawn to go to work, you should start waking up earlier a few days before returning to your normal life.
In addition, exercise is a great natural sleep aid. Endurance sports, such as running or swimming, can help you fall asleep. However, you should avoid engaging in strenuous exercise too late in the evening, as the body needs at least two hours to recover and calm down.
How to change your baby's sleep patterns
When babies are first born, they spend the first few weeks as if they were still in their prenatal state and wake up about every four hours or so. Babies do not have a regular sleep rhythm in the beginning, which they need time to acquire or learn.
Babies actually spend more time in the dream phase of sleep than we adults do. As such, they wake up more often, due to their having full diapers, feeling hungry or maybe just because they want a cuddle. Some babies naturally develop a regular sleep pattern, while others may need a little more support. Sleep behavior varies from baby to baby and every baby is born with different sleep needs.
If you want your baby to fall asleep more quickly, it helps to establish a consistent routine. Even young children can get used to a routine and learn to expect that one event follows another in the evening. Even when your baby is able to sleep through the night, which they generally achieve at around the sixth month, growth spurts or other things can easily interrupt this progress. During these times, your baby will typically be a bit more restless and need more support to fall asleep.
Products at Zizzz to help you get a good night's sleep
If you want to get a good night’s sleep, it’s not enough to have a regular sleep rhythm - the optimal sleeping environment is also key. Our duvets, pillows and organic cotton bed linens can help you find the sleeping environment which is right for you. Our bed linen is made of organic cotton percale, which is breathable, excellent at absorbing moisture and soft.
We offer our bedding in various sizes. For children we have a very special Lucky Star duvet cover, which is also made of organic cotton percale. As it is GOTS-certified organic, these items are extremely gentle on children's delicate skin and won’t trigger any skin irritations.