SOUND MIND, SOUND BODY: Good sleep key to good health


After a long day of work or frolicking around town, nothing sounds more enjoyable than a good night of sleep. Not only that, research shows well-rested individuals are known to lead productive and healthy lives.

Many people may not realize sleep timing is controlled by biology and lifestyle. According to the National Sleep Foundation, an adult's strongest sleep drive is between 2 and 4 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m. These times are known as circadian dips and are either avoided or enhanced depending on how much sleep you have received overnight.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, "The circadian biological clock is controlled by a part of the brain called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN), a group of cells in the hypothalamus that respond to light and dark signals."

The SCN responds to light received by the optic nerve to say "good morning." This light or darkness signals our internal alarm clocks, which run on hormones and body temperature to make us sleepy or awake. In addition, melatonin secretions that start around 11 p.m. increase our sleepy state, and assist in wakefulness when they cease around 7:30 a.m.

As we age, our bodies typically do not adjust well to late-night outings like we used to experience in our younger days. Teenagers are biologically programmed differently from the average adult. There is a shift in the circadian rhythm from the youth and adolescent stage of life.

The National Sleep Foundation mentions it is challenging for teens to get to bed before 11 p.m. For teens the strongest circadian "dips" tend to occur between 3 and 7 am and 2 and 5 p.m., but the morning dip can be even longer if teens haven't had enough sleep, and can even last until 9 or 10 a.m. Since adolescents' "dips" are later than adults, this may help explain why teens and college students love sleeping in and staying up late.

Lifestyle behaviors or patterns manipulate sleep patterns and may be detrimental to one's health.

Jet lag, stress, obesity, heart disease and caffeine or alcohol addictions alter sleep patterns and can cause a sleep disorder. It is estimated that 50 million Americans occasionally consume a form of sleeping medication.

In addition, visiting the doctor for insomnia issues is the third most common reason to visit a doctor in the U.S. Poor quality of sleep has been recognized to lead people toward fatigued lifestyles and premature death.

People who travel for work, or work long hours and/or the night shift maybe more susceptible to sleepless nights due to stress and the body's biological clock trying to catch up to the lifestyle.

Although your sleeping time preference does not pay the bills, it is essential to monitor the length and the quality of sleep. Sleep and exercise go hand in hand to keep life balanced and healthy. In addition, lack of sleep assists in weight-gain and obesity. On the other hand, obesity can cause persistent snoring or sleep apnea, which is highly harmful if untreated. Therefore, this "catch-22" may lead people to consume medications and addicting over-the-counter sleep aids.

Natural ways to receive a good night sleep include drinking chamomile or bedtime tea. If you are experiencing chronic insomnia or unexpected "pop-ups" out of bed from snoring or lack of breathing, that is a sign to contact a medical professional or a sleep specialist.

Elizabeth Kovar has been working in the fitness industry since 2006 with international experience from India and Australia. She has a master's degree in recreation and tourism and is the associate director of healthy living at the YMCA. She can be reached at


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