Weekends are when you decide to sleep in as it seems like the perfect rescue from a long and dreadful week of work. You lock up the alarm clocks, draw in the blinds and with your best comforter on you, you’re off to La La Land. Seconds, hours and minutes pass by but you lay there sleeping like a lil’ baby. 8 hours of sleep sounds like a power nap in comparison to your weekend slumber and after multiple hours in sleep heaven, you wake up.
You expect your mood to be like a spring morning and your energy levels to tear the roof apart. But what actually happens? You wake up feeling tired, grumpy and sleepier than ever and all you have energy for is to lie on your bed hopeless, disappointed and ready for another slumber session.
Why does this happen? You can hold your internal body clock, also known as the ‘circadian rhythm’ responsible for your misery.
**The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle which your body follows. A portion of your brain known as the hypothalamus controls the circadian rhythm. It regulates the periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day and is influenced by external factors such as light, darkness, physical activity, etc. **
For example: When it’s dark at night, the eyes send a signal to the hypothalamus that it is time to get tired and then the brain passes on a signal to the body to produce more melatonin (the sleep-inducing hormone) and finally, your circadian rhythm cycle makes your system feel tired and sleepy.
The more you sleep.. The more you want to sleep. Why?
To explain the above sentence, it is fundamental to study sleep cycles. (Don’t worry! It is not as hard as you think it is.)
Sleep is not one massive cycle that goes on for multiple hours but it is a combination of multiple cycles.** One sleep cycle lasts approximately 80-120 minutes (the average being 90 minutes).** The average human is recommended to have five of these cycles every night i.e 90 x 5 which equals to 450 minutes which roughly comes up to 7.5 hours. (This also explains why 7-8 hours of sleep is recommended every night.) These five cycles are labeled as Stage 1, 2, 3, 4 and REM sleep.
Michael Breus, sleep specialist and author of ‘The Power of When’ says that stages one and two are the easiest to wake up from, REM sleep is slightly more difficult, and then stages three and four are the hardest.
Therefore when you sleep in, you end up increasing your number of cycles and chances are that you might wake up in the middle of cycles 3 or 4 or REM sleep which will leave you feeling more tired and sleepy than you were before you actually went to sleep.
According to sleep experts, if you sleep too much, the circadian rhythm pattern shifts. Our internal biological clock (don’t be confused, it’s just another term for circadian rhythm) is functioned over a period of time to tell the cells in our body how to regulate the energy levels on a daily basis. **Therefore, when you sleep too much, even though you are sleeping, your cells start using their energy cycle way before you wake up and that’s why when you wake up, a major chunk of your energy is already drained and all you feel like doing is going back to sleep again. **
For students, during summer breaks when you sleep and wake up at your own convenience, the rhythm of your body clock gets altered and starts telling the wrong time. Your internal body clock ticks differently compared to your external clock and you end up with fatigue and restlessness. This is also the reason why short naps are recommended as short naps ensure that you wake up in the first or second sleep cycle.
Michael Breus says that** “If I give people one piece of advice, it’s stick to one sleep schedule, period, end of story. That will be the most effective in not only helping you fall asleep but to get the good quality sleep you’re looking for.”**
Sticking to one fixed sleeping schedule is the key to being alert and fresh as it ensures that your circadian rhythm is in sync with your daytime and nighttime activities which will, in turn, boost your daily productivity and creativity levels.
So basically, your circadian rhythm works as per your sleeping schedule. So now you know, who is actually responsible for all days you woke up feeling like a zombie. Don’t worry though, you can always start fresh and turn things around.
Need to know something more about circadian rhythms? Use the chat window on the right to directly chat with a sleep expert and get answers to all your sleep-related problems within minutes.
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