Sticking to a daily routine that includes waking up and falling asleep at the same time everyday can be difficult amongst life’s chaos. Nonetheless, daily routines revolving around eating and sleeping may be more beneficial to our mental health than we realize.
According to new research published in the journal eLife, staying consistent with our meal times and going to bed early could keep mental illness away due the impact our natural cycles have on certain brain chemicals.
Using genetically modified mice, lead study author Dr. Kai-Florian Storch of McGill University and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, worked with his team to demonstrate that sleep issues can result from an imbalanced ultradian rhythm generator.
While many people may have heard the term circadian rhythm, which is defined as our daily sleep-wake cycle that dictates our activities over a span of 24 hours, ultradian rhythms are governed by a 4 hour cycle. Mostly commonly visible in newborn babies who haven’t mastered sleeping through the night, scientists believe that ultradian rhythms are why we eat three times a day with meals spaced relatively even between waking up and going to bed.
Ultradian rhythms are also known to be activated by a chemical inside the brain called dopamine. This neurotransmitter is linked to feelings of pleasure and reward. When dopamine levels are imbalanced in the brain, which can occur in individuals with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, the typical 4-hour cycles can last for up to 48 hours.
The groundbreaking results are the first to suggest that a dopamine-based rhythm generator inside the brain and its connection to mental illness.
With all of life’s distractions, keeping a consistent sleep-wake schedule is considered by many as the hardest strategy to stick to for better snooze.
Try setting a bedtime alarm to remind that bedtime is near, set your DVR and began a relaxing routine an hour before tucking in, including activities like reading, meditation, writing, stretching or drinking Sleepy time tea.
Remember that your body isn’t a machine; give yourself time to wind down for deeper, refreshing shut-eye every night of the week!