These factors play a role in sleeping well

sleeping manA good night’s sleep can set the tone for the day. However, many factors can impact how you sleep.

It begins with your body’s internal clock, what is called the circadian rhythm. It functions as your brain’s sleep/wake cycle, and regulates cycles of alertness and sleepiness by reacting to changes in light in your environment. Everyone’s circadian rhythm is different and it changes as we age. However, most people become alert in the light and sleepy in darkness.

This can be affected by the change in seasons, too. As we transition into winter in the United States, the days become shorter and the nights longer. The lessening of light during the day can cause problems for your sleep cycles — leading to issues such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Symptoms of SAD can include, persistent low energy, oversleeping and difficulty concentrating.

Two phases of sleep

The circadian rhythm regulates the sleep cycle. When your body is ready to sleep, it goes through the sleep cycle, which is made up of two phases of sleep, rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep. During REM, the brain is active. During non-REM sleep, your body and brain transition into a deeper sleep where your heartbeat and breathing slows and brain activity slows. Both are important. REM sleep helps with memory consolidation, emotional processing and brain development. It’s when we dream. Non-REM sleep is necessary to feel rested in the morning.

Sleep quality and time spent in each sleep stage may become altered by depression, aging, traumatic brain injuries, medications and circadian rhythm disorders. Having good sleep habits can help you have better sleep that keeps you energized throughout the day.

Habits for good sleep

Some helpful habits to incorporate into your nighttime routine include:

  • Start your bedtime routine at a consistent time.
  • Relax and unwind before bed. Give your brain and body a chance to relax in preparation for bed.
  • Step away from electronic devices. Electronic screens emit blue light that has negative effects on sleep quality.
  • Create a good sleeping environment. Find what helps you fall asleep, such as blackout curtains, white noise or a fan to keep you cool.