The Role Of The Sleep-Wake Cycle In Regulating Sleep

Woman Sleeping

Regulating a healthy sleeping pattern can be difficult, particularly if we are adjusting to a new lifestyle or are unable to stick to a regular sleeping cycle due to reasons beyond our control. It’s not just about monitoring how our brain functions at night and in the day, but ensuring we’re doing what’s best for our body and investing in our comfort. Sleeping in a room that’s at least 18 degrees Celsius will aid a better night’s sleep as well as investing in your own comfort such as the best pillow for side sleeper. With that in mind, we’re taking a closer look at the role of the sleep-wake cycle in regulating healthy sleeping patterns.

What Is The Sleep-Wake Cycle?

Our bodies sleep-wake cycle essentially controls the periods of which we are asleep vs the periods we are awake. The longer we are awake, the greater sense of sleep our body develops, influencing our daily rhythm. External factors such as our environment and what we eat and drink during the day can have a big impact on our sleep-wake cycle, sometimes causing difficulty when trying to go to sleep or disruption throughout the night. That’s why sticking to a sleep schedule is so important.

Your Need For Sleep

Each of us requires a unique amount of sleep and, whilst the guidelines are there to provide us with a rough idea of how much sleep we should be getting depending on our age, that isn’t to say that we all require that amount of sleep each night. Generally speaking, younger teens and adults require more sleep than older individuals to support their continuous growth and development. As we age, our bodies’ need for the same amount of sleep declines, meaning that we’re likely to go to sleep later and wake up earlier. Having said that, the amount of sleep we need also depends on other factors such as health conditions that may have a bigger toll on the body causing us to need more sleep. 

Man Sleeping

Light-Dark Cycle

Whilst many of us follow a natural sleep schedule, sleeping at night when it’s dark outside and waking up post-sunrise, it’s not always possible to follow the same sleeping pattern. This is particularly true if you are required to carry out shift work that may result in you working throughout the night and sleeping during the day. Regardless, the light-dark cycle helps your body stay in tune with this, influencing when your brain releases melatonin – a hormone that’s considered to promote sleep. As you are exposed to more light, your body will release cortisol which prepares you to wake up. Additional light exposure in the evening may disrupt this process, making it more difficult for you to fall asleep. 

Out Of Sync Symptoms

From time to time, we may experience hiccups in our sleep-wake cycle, impacting the length of time we are asleep for or keeping us up at night. There are many sleep disorders that may follow including insomnia that prevents people from falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. As a result, you may not be getting a good night’s rest which may result in overtiredness, fatigue or further health-related problems. Narcolepsy is also incredibly common, causing individuals to experience extreme tiredness during the day time in addition to enhanced muscle weakness. 

Sleep Wake Cycle and Sleep Disorders

The sleep-wake cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm, plays a critical role in regulating the timing and duration of sleep. 

Circadian rhythm disorders can include insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, and difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at the desired times. Some people have a condition known as delayed sleep phase disorder, in which the internal clock is set to a later schedule, making it difficult for them to fall asleep at a typical bedtime and wake up at a typical time in the morning.

Other sleep disorders, such as insomnia and sleep apnea, may also be related to disruptions in the sleep-wake cycle. 

In general, maintaining a regular sleep schedule and avoiding exposure to artificial light at night can help promote healthy sleep.


Sleep is a gift from the Almighty and it is important to regulate your sleep cycle for better health and productivity. You can regulate your sleep cycle by sleeping in a dark room at a proper time. 

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