The Witching Hour

The Witching Hour

With Halloween fast-approaching, the massive sugar dump is bound to wreak havoc on your sleep schedule. So, it’s important to stick to your bedtime routine as closely as possible as not to suffer the repercussions the next morning.

Parents tend to follow a sleep schedule for their kids, but often neglect themselves in this area. Those few peaceful hours once the kids are in bed could actually be doing more harm than good.

Studies have shown that every adult should have a bedtime. Researchers from Duke University Medical Center found that adults who experience insufficient sleep duration, interrupted sleep cycles, and irregular bed- and waking-times face increased cardiometabolic risk, which refers to the risk for health issues like cardiovascular disease, obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.

The human body likes routine and maintaining one regarding sleep is essential to your overall health.

Circadian Rhythms
Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle. They respond primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment. Sleeping at night and being awake during the day is an example of a light-related circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are found in most living things, including animals, plants, and many tiny microbes. (The study of circadian rhythms is called chronobiology.)

Biological Clocks
Biological clocks are an organism’s innate timing device. They’re composed of specific molecules (proteins) that interact in cells throughout the body. Biological clocks are found in nearly every tissue and organ. Researchers have identified similar genes in people, fruit flies, mice, fungi, and several other organisms responsible for making the clock’s components.

Biological clocks aren’t the same thing as circadian rhythms, but they are related as biological clocks produce circadian rhythms and regulate their timing.

The Master Clock
A master clock in the brain coordinates all the biological clocks in a living thing, keeping the clocks in sync. In vertebrate animals, including humans, the master clock is a group of about 20,000 nerve cells (neurons) that form a structure called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN. The SCN is located in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus and receives direct input from the eyes.

Natural factors within the body produce circadian rhythms. However, signals from the environment also affect them. The main cue influencing circadian rhythms is daylight. This light can turn on or turn off genes that control the molecular structure of biological clocks. Changing the light-dark cycles can speed up, slow down, or reset biological clocks as well as circadian rhythms.

An easy way to establish a bedtime routine is to rely on natural light as your bedtime cue. Once the sun sets, keeping interior lights dim and the TV off will stimulate your circadian rhythm and help initiate the sleep phase.

Circadian rhythms help determine our sleep patterns. The body’s master clock, or SCN, controls the production of melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy. It receives information about incoming light from the optic nerves, which relay information from the eyes to the brain. When there is less light—like at night—the SCN tells the brain to make more melatonin so you get drowsy. Researchers are studying how shift work (as well as exposure to light from mobile devices) during the night may alter circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles.

This is important because circadian rhythms can influence sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, eating habits and digestion, body temperature, and other important bodily functions. Biological clocks that run fast or slow can result in disrupted or abnormal circadian rhythms. Irregular rhythms have been linked to various chronic health conditions, such as sleep disorders, obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.

On every “Habits of Successful People” list, you’ll find the habit of getting up early as a key factor to a successful day. Getting up early is much easier if you’ve gone to bed at a scheduled time, and this is true for everyone, not just adults! So, instead of allowing a nighttime sugar-dump this Halloween, why not allow a predetermined amount of candy at a specific time each day? This will help you maintain a healthy sleep routine for your family and allow the kids to enjoy their sugary treats for days to come instead of gorging themselves in one night.