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Nodding Off - Why Do We Do It?

22-07-2011

For most people, falling asleep is just a natural part of life, something that comes fairly easily, for others, it can be a real struggle, something that defines their life, so what makes us fall asleep, or not, as the case may be?

The major influence is the levels of neurotransmitters in two specific areas of the brain, one a sleep inducing area and the other a wakefulness inducing area. Generally speaking, these levels change with our body clock, and once a certain amount of the neurotransmitter called adenosine has built up in our sleep inducing area, we will being to feel tired and eventually fall asleep.

Beyond this major physiological transition, there are a number of other secondary factors that help send us to sleep. Environmental factors are incredibly important, most people need to be in a relatively dark and quiet room to get to sleep. The reason for this is fairly obvious, the less mental stimulation the better. If the brain is being bombarded with sensory information, if struggles to go to sleep as it is too busy attempting to process all this data.

Another important element is recent sleep activity. If you have had a nap during the day, you will find it harder to go to sleep, and if you didn’t sleep the night before, you will find it easier.


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