What controls sleep and wakefulness?

Video transcript:

If you’ve ever wondered how the body knows when it’s time for sleep and time to be awake then stay tuned we’re going to cover that in today’s video.

There are two main mechanisms behind sleep we have sleep pressure or sleep drive and the sleep/wake cycle also known as the circadian rhythm.

Sleep pressure and sleep drive start off really low in the morning and it builds up over the course of the day so, generally speaking, by the time nighttime arrives sleep pressure is really strong and that is what prompts us to fall asleep.

The circadian rhythm or the sleep/wake cycle takes environmental cues such as the amount of light we’re exposed to, how active we are, and even when we eat our meals as cues for how the day is progressing and this is used by the body to help prepare for sleep.

Unfortunately for people with insomnia there’s this third mechanism known as the arousal system and this can actually suspend sleep so that even when sleep pressure is really strong and you’re really sleepy and tired, and even if you’ve been exposed to great amounts of natural light in the morning and you’ve been avoiding light in the evening, these two mechanisms are overridden by the worry and fear, or stress, and this makes sleep more difficult.

CBT-I techniques are very effective because they reduce the power of this arousal system which allows sleep pressure and sleep drive and the sleep/wake cycle to once again take the front seat and help control sleep and return you to what is what we would say is normal asleep (ie you can fall asleep relatively quickly once you get in bed and you spend minimal amounts of time awake during the night).

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