Updated: Aug 30, 2019
The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was jointly awarded to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young for their “discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm”.
This Nobel Prize is an exciting acknowledgment of sleep research that will hopefully lead to answers for those living with circadian rhythm sleep disorders. To honour this great achievement the slogan of World Sleep Day 2018 is ‘Join the Sleep World, Preserve Your Rhythms to Enjoy Life’. The goal is to raise awareness of the importance of circadian rhythms in healthy sleep. What is the circadian rhythm and why is it important to preserve regular circadian rhythms? Circadian rhythms refer to a cycle within the body. Our circadian rhythms control genes that create cellular oscillations affecting cell function, division and growth, along with critical physiological functions such as behavior, hormone levels, sleep, body temperature, immune responses and metabolism. When these rhythms are disrupted, we see increased rates of cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, depression and many other diseases.
The circadian rhythm plays such an integral part in sleep health. Preserving regular circadian rhythms have been found to lower the risk of sleep disorders, mental health disorders and chronic health issues. Sound sleep is one of the three pillars of good health along with a balanced diet and regular exercise. Individuals who get an entire night’s sleep without any interruptions experience lower rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and other chronic illnesses.
For more information about the Circadian Rhythm and Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders:
Watch a fascinating short video from the BBC “How body clocks rule our lives”
Circadian Rhythms from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
How much sleep do we really need?
If you are a teenager or young adult you may be surprised. It is recommended that teenagers (14-17) sleep between 8-10 hours, however it may be appropriate for them to sleep as much as 11 hours. Young adults (18-25) are recommended to sleep 7-9 hours however, it also may be appropriate for this age group to sleep 11 hours. Older adults (26-64) are also recommended to sleep 7-9 hours, however it may be appropriate for this group to sleep 10 hours.
If you are not waking up refreshed or regularly feel tired and sleepy during the day (or when you should be awake and alert) it is helpful to see how you respond to different amounts of sleep. Try sleeping an extra hour or more each night for at least two weeks. If you do not feel any better see your doctor as soon as possible. Information about your day to day activities including sleep habits can help your doctor identify the underlying cause/s. The National Sleep Foundation (USA) has a great sleep diary you can use to track your sleep and daily activities. Click here to check it out.