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The Fascinating Forces that Drive Your Sleep/Wake Cycle

July 17, 2018


The Fascinating Forces that Drive Your Sleep/Wake Cycle

Have you ever wondered how we are able to stay awake for up to 16 hours per day, and then go to bed where we remain asleep for up to 8 hours at a stretch? Isn’t it a little odd that our bodies can group together periods of sleepiness and wakefulness in this very convenient fashion, instead of throwing us for a loop by requiring a number of naps throughout the day?

It turns out there are two opposing, yet symbiotic, biological forces that play a role in the intricate sleep/wake cycle - sleep drive and an alerting signal.

What is Sleep Drive?

Sleep drive is the force that causes you to become sleepy once you've stayed up past your normal bedtime. This drive increases incrementally throughout the day. Once you're asleep, this drive begins to wane. Also known as Process S, it is in part the result of an accumulation of sleep-inducing substances that generates a homeostatic drive to sleep in the brain. 'Sleep drive' differs from sleepiness in that your body allows you to remain awake and alert throughout the day despite of it, thanks to an alerting signal produced by our biological clocks.

What is The Alerting Signal?

The alerting signal produced your biological clock keeps sleep drive in check, which enables the human body to stay awake for up to 17 hours in one go. Also known as Process C, this drive is governed by the body's circadian clock.

How to These Forces Interact?

Under normal circumstances, your body's alerting signal increases at the same rate as that of your sleep drive throughout the day. As soon as the strength of this signal starts to wane near your normal bedtime, sleep becomes an overwhelming urge. The interaction of these two forces are influenced by each person's unique genome, as well as external factors such as diet, sleep habits, room temperature, stress, environmental noises, as well as stress.

Fascinating, right? Check back soon for more valuable information on the science of sleep from Bed King’s team of sleeping surface specialists. We make a point of keeping informed of the latest sleep science findings, so we may use this insight to provide sound advice on the purchase of our exceptional range of beds, mattresses and bedding. In the meantime, feel free to get in touch if you have any questions regarding our wide selection of comfort-graded sleeping surfaces.


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