Sleep pattern – What are the natural sleep pattern

Sleep pattern – Natural pattern of sleep

Human bodies require sleep in order to maintain proper function and health. In fact, we are programmed to sleep each night as a means of restoring our bodies and minds. There are 2 interacting systems, the internal biological clock and the sleep-wake homeostatic, largely determine the timing of our transitions, from wakefulness to sleep and vice versa. These 2 factors also explain why, under normal conditions, we typically stay awake during the day and sleep at night. But what exactly happens, when we drift off to sleep?

Sleep pattern – Modern sleep research

Modern sleep research in the early 1920s, scientists regarded sleep as an inactive brain state. It was generally accepted that as night fell and sensory inputs from the environment diminished, so too did brain function. Scientists thought that the brain simply shut down during sleep, only to restart again when morning came.

Sleep pattern there are 2 types of sleep

There are 2 main types of sleep;

  1. Rapid-eye-movement (REM)
  2. Non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM)

On an EEG, REM sleep often called “active sleep”, is identifiable by its characteristic low-amplitude, high-frequency waves, and alpha rhythm, as well as the eye movements for which it is named. Many sleep experts think that these eye movements are in some way related to dreams.  When people are awakened from REM sleep, they report that they had been dreaming, typically extremely vivid and sometimes bizarre dreams. In contrast, people report dreaming far less frequently when awakened from NREM sleep. Interesting fact though, during REM sleep muscles in the arms and legs are temporarily paralyzed. This is thought to be a neurological barrier that prevents us from “acting out” our dreams.

Sleep pattern – NREM 3 distinct stages

NREM can be broken down into 3 distinct stages: N1, N2, and N3. In the progression from stage N1 to N3, brain waves become slower and more synchronized and the eyes remain still. In stage N3, the deepest stage of NREM, EGG’s reveal high-amplitude, low-frequency waves spindles. This stage is referred to as “deep” or “slow-wave” sleep.

Sleep pattern – shifting sleep patterns

Sleep pattern – shifting sleep patterns

Sleep patterns can be affected by many factors, including age, the amount of recent sleep or wakefulness, the time of the day or night relative to an individual’s internal clock, other behaviors prior to sleep such as exercise, stress, an environmental condition such as temperature and light and various chemicals.

Sleep patterns can be affected by many factors, including age, the amount of recent sleep or wakefulness, the time of the day or night relative to an individual’s internal clock, other behaviors prior to sleep such as exercise, stress, environmental conditions such as temperature and light, and various chemicals.

Sleep pattern – Early stage of life

Sleep pattern NREM-REM sleep in newborns is present from birth but at 50 to 60 minutes in much shorter than the 90-minute cycles that occur in adults. Consolidated nocturnal sleep and fully developed EEG patterns of the NREM sleep stages emerge only after 2 to 6 months.

Sleep pattern – alternative sleep cycle

Monophasic sleep is just one cycle among many. There are other, more pragmatic ways to get some sleep, a published seminal paper that suggested humans originally slept in 2 phases.

Each of these alternate sleep cycles is polyphasic – this means they involve multiple sleep phases each day.

Sleep pattern – the biphasic sleep pattern

The biphasic sleep pattern consists of a split sleeping pattern, so around 5 to 6 hours at night and one nap at midday. This may be best suited to people living in areas where biphasic sleep is common for example the Mediterranean or Latin America.

Sleep pattern – is biphasic sleep better?

Whether biphasic sleep is better for you depends on personal preference. By napping in the middle of the day, the advantages include an energy boost on days where you are particularly tired. Napping also improves memory and cognitive functions and if taken regularly, short naps after lunch can improve cardiovascular health and reduce stress.

However, for insomniacs, napping perpetuates bad habits and can worsen sleep issues caused by jet lag, stress, and illness.  So these sleep schedules are only recommended for those with healthy sleep habits and have no sleeping problems at night as a result of daytime napping.

Other sleep cycles are:

  • The Dymaxion cycle – The Dymaxion cycle consists of  4 x 30-minute naps throughout the day.
  • The Uberman – Consists of 6 to 8 equidistant naps across the day, each lasting 20 minutes.

Sleep pattern – what is the most efficient sleep cycle

Sleep pattern in terms of efficiency, the best sleep cycle is whatever works for you. While many may suffer sleep deprivation from a polyphasic sleep cycle, others may thrive. Above any unusual sleep patterns, it is vital that you still get enough sleep, in whatever form it takes. Although it is recommended to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night, however, this doesn’t have to be exclusively with a monophasic cycle.