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What Our Sleep Cycles Tell Us
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sleep cycles

By Mikkie Mills

Sleep patterns change during different stages of a person’s life. Some people sleep once per day, while others sleep more often. Just because the typical sleep pattern is supposed to be “sleep eight hours per night, and be awake the rest of the time” doesn’t mean that this is a good pattern for you to follow. Here are a few of the types of sleep patterns that may occur, and the benefits of each.

Monophasic Sleep

The supposed usual sleep pattern can be described as sleeping eight hours per day, then being awake for the rest of the 24 hour period. This sleep pattern is called a monophasic. But a person’s circadian rhythm is control of when they sleep and when they are awake so that individual sleep patterns may vary. Monophasic sleeping patterns became common during the industrial revolution when people worked long hours, and then slept in between times.

In some cases, working for at least eight hours per day causes the amount of light in a person’s day to be lengthened, and reduces the amount of melatonin available to the body. This lack causes an interruption in the sleep-wake cycle of those who work under artificial light. It also causes other sleep patterns to evolve.

The Biphasic Pattern of Sleep

A biphasic sleep occurs when a person likes to sleep twice per day. In this type of sleep pattern, the individual sleeps a more extensive period at night and then takes a nap at some point during the day. If a person is a biphasic sleeper, they are in good company, since many cultures consider biphasic sleep, also known as taking a nap, a cultural norm. The nap phase of this sleep pattern may be as short as half an hour or last longer. Sleep time at night is determined by the amount of sleep a person gets during the day. While some people feel refreshed by an afternoon nap, others, especially children, find that having a long nap in the afternoon affects the quality of their wake time. So people who like to nap and find a brief rest helps them get through the day in a more alert fashion work best in jobs that allow them to rest briefly during the day.

Polyphasic Patterned Sleep

If an individual sleeps several times during a 24 hour period, they are considered to be polyphasic. This style of sleep pattern feels natural to some people who have segmented sleep periods during the day or nap more often than once per day. People use this type of sleep pattern when they want to decrease their total time asleep. These individuals believe that polyphasic patterned sleepers increase the depth of their sleeping levels during sleep, increasing the amount of recovery sleep. A person who sleeps in only one long block of time spends 45 percent of their time in restorative sleep. People who use polyphasic sleep patterns increase the percentage of time that they experience deep, restorative sleep.

All periods of sleep go through the same phases, namely ultradian rhythms, sleep reparation rhythms and finally circadian rhythm entrainment. The ultradian rhythm period occurs when you are awake and rotate between being wide awake and feeling sleepy. This rhythm is affected by the amount of time you sleep. An individual can train and control the awake periods of their lives by being awake for the same amounts of time between resting periods. During the sleep repartitioning section of the day, a person prepares to go into a more profound, REM level of sleeping. Sleeping for 1.5 to 2 hours increases the amount of time a person remains in restful, restorative sleep by eliminating the time spent in lighter forms of sleep. The circadian rhythm eventually changes to accommodate sleeping for shorter periods per day.

About Mikkie Mills: “I’m a Chicago native who loves to share her expertise about personal development and growth. When I’m not writing, I’m chasing the little ones around or rock climbing at the local climbing gym.” More articles by Mikkie.

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