The Science Behind Why We Sleep—Adenosine and Melatonin - Owlcation - Education
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The Science Behind Why We Sleep—Adenosine and Melatonin

Why Do We Sleep?

We spend one-third of our lives sleeping. We know that without sleep, we don't feel well. Research is making it clear that lack of sleep is linked to many heath risks. It is as important to our well-being as nutrition and exercise.

We may get tired at different times of the day. Some of us fall asleep early in the evening, some late at night, insomniacs struggle to get to sleep at all - but eventually, we all fall asleep. What is the secret of how we slip into this essential state? Scientists have found that two important cycles regulate our sleep—the homeostatic sleep drive and the circadian signal. These cycles are controlled by two vital components —adenosine and melatonin.

the-science-behind-why-we-sleep

The Homeostatic Sleep Drive Process

The homeostatic sleep drive process regulates the drive to sleep based on the amount of time we're awake and how much energy we're expending. The chemical adenosine binds to adenosine receptors during waking hours. The more you do and the longer you're awake, the more adenosine you accumulate, making you feel tired. It's your body's way of saying you've done enough, and it's time to quit. While you sleep, this chemical is broken down and adenosine levels decrease. Therefore, scientists feel that adenosine is the way the body keeps track of how much sleep you've gotten, and how much sleep you need. If you don't get enough sleep, the adenosine in your body is still remaining when you wake up, making you feel groggy. The next night you may sleep longer to rid your body of the extra accumulation of adenosine.

The Circadian Process

The circadian process is regulated by the a tiny internal biological clock located in the hypothalamus called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). This structure receives light waves from the eye directly through the optic nerve. This Light resets the clock to correspond to the day-night cycle. Signals from the SCN travel to the pineal gland which switches off the production of melatonin during day, and increases it during night. Similar to adenosine, the build up of melatonin in our bodies makes us feel sleepy. This is why Melatonin is often taken as a natural sleep aid, and is successful for many people.

It All Comes Together

This combination of melatonin from the circadian system and adenosine from the homeostatic system normally peak together around 9 P.M. signaling the body that it's time to sleep. If everything is working as nature intended, we drift off peacefully to a good nights sleep shortly thereafter.

Pleasant Dreams!

Why Does Caffeine Keep You Awake?

Caffeine is a substance that can block the adenosine receptors in our bodies, thereby interfering with the accumulation of adenosine. Because you have less adenosine built up in your system, you feel energized and less fatigued.

Turn Off Electronic Devices in the Bedroom!

Did you know that having a light on in the bedroom interferes with your sleep? Scientists are even concerned about the light emitted from our electronic devices such as smart phones, laptops, tablets and E-readers. They feel that light in the bedroom can completely distort your natural sleep cycle. Why? Because light interferes with your body's ability to produce melatonin. Scientists recommend that if you want a good night's sleep, turn off those electronic gadgets in your bedroom before retiring for the night!

Did You Know That Lack Of Sleep Puts You At Risk For:

  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes

Having Trouble Sleeping? Try These Tips!

References

  • Healthy Sleep
  • Adenosine & Sleep | LIVESTRONG.COM
    Adenosine & Sleep. Adenosine is a chemical in your brain and body that belongs to a class of substances called neurotransmitters. These substances support basic nervous system communication by carrying messages across the gaps between individual

Questions & Answers

Question: How does missing stage four in a sleep cycle affect my mind and body?

Answer: Since the stage four (deep sleep) cycle is very important for the restoration of the brain and body, you certainly could be feeling some ill effects from missing out on this important cycle. Try out some of the tips in the article for a good night's sleep.

© 2012 Margaret Perrottet

Comments

nicolas31 on March 11, 2018:

How long does it take for melatonin to work http://hlthask.com/how-long-does-it-take-for-melat...

I found a night mask has really helped my sleep pattern. Don't need melatonin now.

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on June 07, 2013:

epbrooks - thanks so much for taking the time to comment and for the vote up - I really appreciate it.

Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on June 06, 2013:

Very detailed hub. Interesting how all of this ties together. Voted up!

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on May 22, 2013:

Nationette - Glad you found this interesting. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Jackie Nation from NH-> FL on May 21, 2013:

so so so so interesting and useful to know. i have had sleep inconsistency issues since probably second grade! cheers on the info, thank you!

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on March 23, 2013:

Deborah-Diane - So glad you found this useful. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on March 23, 2013:

TravelinJack - You're right - sometimes sleep is such delicious escape from things. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Deborah-Diane from Orange County, California on March 22, 2013:

Really useful information on the science of sleep!

Jack Baumann from St. Louis, Missouri on March 22, 2013:

We sleep because its life little break from the hardship of the day!!

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on March 22, 2013:

Peggy - You're right - I should have factored HubPages in! Thanks for reading, voting and sharing.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 22, 2013:

Nice to know the science behind what makes us sleepy. I agree with others who have already commented that what is not factored into this is HubPages. Haha! Up, useful and interesting votes and will share.

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on March 03, 2013:

THEmikeLO - thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to read and comment.

THEmikeLO on March 03, 2013:

Thank you for this information! I never new the true meaning as to why caffeine kept me awake. Great hub!

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on March 03, 2013:

Kasman - perhaps you're working out too close to the time you're trying to sleep. I've read that if you exercise, it should be many hours before going to bed. Thanks so much for reading and voting - I greatly appreciate it!

Kas from Bartlett, Tennessee on March 03, 2013:

I'm very intrigued by this. I usually struggle sleeping myself. It takes an act of God sometimes to help me stay asleep for a full 8 hours honestly. When I work out, it's even worse. Thanks so much for taking the time to explain how it all works and giving me some tips on how to drop at night!

Very well written and I'm voting up!

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on March 03, 2013:

rajan- Glad you found this interesting. They're doing lots of studies on sleep these days, and are finding out how critical it is to your health. Thanks so much for stopping by, voting and sharing.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 03, 2013:

Thanks for sharing this useful and interesting information Margaret.

Voted up, useful and shared.

vinayak1000 from Minneapolis on February 24, 2013:

Oh yeah!! Should have guessed that. Thanks a lot.

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on February 24, 2013:

vinayak1000 - thanks so much for the votes. You can easily link to other hubs by using the link capsule as I did under "Some Other Sleep Related Hubs".

vinayak1000 from Minneapolis on February 24, 2013:

Voted up and Useful. By the way, how do you link to hubs??

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on January 30, 2013:

Thanks for reading and sharing, Au fait. I'll link to your hubs as well.

C E Clark from North Texas on January 30, 2013:

Very interesting article and ties in well with my own hubs on sleep. I've already put a link for this hub in my hub, "Not Enough Sleep Will Make You Fat," and plan to put links to this hub in my other hubs relating to sleep. Voted up, interesting and useful. Will share!

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on December 27, 2012:

From what I've read, it's difficult to get a good sleep in four hours. My husband worked night shift for years, and would sleep from 8:00PM to 12 midnight, go to work, then sleep again from 12:00 PM to 4:00. I don't think he ever felt truly rested with that sleep cycle. My guess is that it probably stops you from getting into a really deep sleep, but I'd have to research it. Thanks so much for stopping by and asking an interesting questions, Easy Exercise.

Kelly A Burnett from United States on December 27, 2012:

Can some people really train themsselves to sleep only 4 hours and still be healthy? If they do, will they still have two types of sleep?

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on December 21, 2012:

Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment, Annamie. Glad you found this article useful.

Annamie Cureteyz on December 21, 2012:

And now I know! This is such a very informative post, I honestly don’t have any idea about things and issues concerning sleep but now I know!! Thank you for sharing this, keep posting!

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on October 21, 2012:

Thanks BlissfulWriter - I enjoy yours as well!

BlissfulWriter on October 20, 2012:

I like your scientific articles.

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on September 12, 2012:

@sisterkaite - Welcome to HubPages - I see you just joined. I look forward to reading your hubs!

Sister Kaite Delaney from Marco Island, FL on September 12, 2012:

Well written article and I appreciate this, especially in science. Thank you for such good presentation and references.

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on September 11, 2012:

@healthylife2 - You may want to boost your exercise level up to increase the adenosine, or take a melatonin supplement. I've heard that you need to be somewhat careful with taking melatonin, as it can cause nightmares. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

healthylife2 on September 11, 2012:

Interesting hub describing the chemical process involved with sleep. I think I have a shortage of these chemicals and wake up often during the night but am working on it.Thanks for the useful information.

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on August 26, 2012:

Thanks for reading and commenting, Kris. I don't think people realize how vital sleep is to your health.

Kris Heeter from Indiana on August 26, 2012:

Very nice fact-filled hub! Sleep is so critical for our health and well-being and most of us don't get enough! Nicely done:)

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on August 14, 2012:

Thanks for reading and commenting, ChristyWrites.

Christy Birmingham from British Columbia, Canada on August 13, 2012:

A lot of useful points here. While I am always hearing about how much sleep we need, I had not thought much about WHY we sleep. Thanks!

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on August 06, 2012:

So glad you found it interesting, Olde Cashmere - thanks for reading!

Olde Cashmere on August 05, 2012:

Thank you for writing this interesting article. I enjoyed learning about the facts and reasons for sleep. Voting this up, useful, and interesting :)

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on August 02, 2012:

Thanks for taking the time to read, comment and vote, Stephanie. Kids need more sleep than adults, so nag away!

Stephanie Henkel from USA on August 02, 2012:

I love the interesting facts about sleep that you've included here, and I especially like your explanation of the science of sleep. Now I have some facts to back me up when I nag my granddaughter to get a good night's sleep! :) Good hub, voted up, useful and interesting!

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on July 30, 2012:

Good to see you stopping by, shiningirisheyes, and thanks for the comment.

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on July 30, 2012:

Yes, ignugent17 - I was amazed when doing research how important it is to get a good night's sleep. It's as important as eating well and getting exercise, but does not get the same attention paid to it. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on July 30, 2012:

Thanks for reading and the votes, CyberShelley. It's greatly appreciated!

Shining Irish Eyes from Upstate, New York on July 30, 2012:

Excellent research on the subject of sleep. I am amazed as well the deadly diseases that can be caused by lack of sleep. Visious cycle once you are trapped in it.

ignugent17 on July 30, 2012:

Sleeping is really important and now I understand why I need to drink coffee to keep me awake. Thank you very much for your information very interesting.

Shelley Watson on July 30, 2012:

What a fantastic, beautifully laid out hub with great information. Such a pleasure to read. Up, interesting and shared!

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on July 29, 2012:

Yeah, I'm having the same problem. I think HubPages blocks my adenosine receptor. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Gamerelated from California on July 29, 2012:

Hello mperrottet, I was reading this last night too because I couldn't sleep. I think there is a third process contributing to my sleep cycle called HubPages. Its been keeping me up late recently. Good work on this article. I look forward to reading more.

Margaret Perrottet (author) from San Antonio, FL on July 29, 2012:

It is amazing. Everything is so beautifully balanced.

bob on July 29, 2012:

Interesting hub. Amazing how the body regulates itself.

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