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How To Sleep Well: Regulating Our Biological Cycles Of Rest And Activity

By Rick Abranson

The science of sleep makes it clear that our entire health and well being depends on sleeping well. Science has shown that when we get a good night’s rest, this deep rest rejuvenates body and mind so that we are able to function at our best levels during the day. Sleeping well keeps us healthy. On the other hand, if we suffer from sleep deprivation for a significant time, this can often lead to major health issues such as depression, impaired immune response, high blood pressure, and obesity.

How does a good night’s sleep begin? According to the National Sleep Foundation, the first step is to start out in the dark. Why? The answer has to do with our circadian rhythms. These rhythms are biological cycles that determine some critical bodily functions, including hormone production, cell regeneration, brain wave activity, and patterns of core body temperature. These rhythms revolve between phases of rest and phases of activity. Both phases are influenced by light and dark.

During exposure to daylight, the active phase of body activity occurs. It is important to keep in mind, though, that even just the light in our bedroom or the light from our TV or computer can have a significant effect on our circadian rhythms. The light impulse enters through the eyes (even when they are closed) and stimulates various parts of the brain that govern our levels of hormonal activity, body temperature, etc. As a result we continue to feel awake.

Scientific research shows that when we control our exposure to light and darkness, we can keep our circadian rhythms in balance. When they are in balance, we feel tired in the absence of light so that we can sleep deeply. Conversely, we feel bright-eyed and awake when we are exposed to daylight.

This is a very important factor for children and teenagers also, because good sleep has a profoundly beneficial effect on mental and physical development in young people. Circadian rhythms develop at about six weeks, and at three to six months, most babies have a developed and regular sleep-wake cycle in place.

Knowing all this, we see that it is important to control our exposure to light and darkness. During the day it is good to spend time in sunlight. Some people even supplement their exposure to natural sunlight through use of a supplemental light system when indoors. When time for bed approaches, we should have a regular routine in place whenever possible. The Chairman of the National Sleep Foundation, Thomas J. Balkin, Ph.D., says, “The hour before bed is an important time to relax and wind-down before going to sleep. For those who are having problems sleeping, it’s a good idea to consider whether your bedtime routines may be too alerting.”

It is best to turn off the computer and the TV an hour before we go to bed, to make sure that the light from either will not have an adverse effect on our sleep. Don’t bring work into the bedroom, it should be a place for rest, not activity. Best to keep the bedroom dark or very dimly lit. If necessary, an eye mask or light blocking curtains can be used to ensure darkness. We can also promote relaxation by gently massaging our neck, hands, and feet just before bedtime. Once lying down in bed in the dark, we can enhance relaxation by taking long, deep, easy breaths, letting body and mind relax.

If we like we can help the process of relaxation before bed by drinking something soothing, such as a cup of warm milk or an herbal tea of our choice (such as Chamomile tea). The mattress we are using can also make a difference for many people. We want to be sure our mattress is comfortable and does not make it harder for the body to relax. Many people find that using a special sleeping surface is a big help, such as a memory foam mattress, latex mattress, or air bed.

Every living being requires deep, restful sleep to stay healthy. You do too, so take the time to begin your night’s sleep in soothing and restful comfort. Well begun is half done!

Visit here for more info on sleep technology and sleep tips. Learn more about mattresses, such as memory foam mattresses or latex mattresses, here.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Abranson, Rick "How To Sleep Well: Regulating Our Biological Cycles Of Rest And Activity." How To Sleep Well: Regulating Our Biological Cycles Of Rest And Activity. 23 Jun. 2010. 23 Dec 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Abranson, R (2010, June 23). How To Sleep Well: Regulating Our Biological Cycles Of Rest And Activity. Retrieved December 23, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Abranson, Rick "How To Sleep Well: Regulating Our Biological Cycles Of Rest And Activity"

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