Teesside Wellbeing - Sleep

Sleep and the Hormone Adenosine

Because sleep is so important to us, I want to start this series of leaflets with a talk about sleep. Sleep is the time in our life when we are almost unaware of the outside world and focus on what is going on in our body. It is what and when we do things in the time we are awake affect sleep. If like me you would like to improve your sleep and get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep every night we can talk about that.

I want to start with adenosine and how it works with sleep. In short, when we wake up adenosine is low. As the day goes on adenosine will increase. When it gets too high, we go to sleep. So, we can think of it as sleep hunger, we are more hungry for sleep when adenosine is high. Caffeine will affect the adenosine receptors by blocking these receptors giving you a temporary boost to your attentiveness. Over time the effects of the caffeine will wear off and the ticking build-up of adenosine will take its effect until you go to sleep.

Everyone is different in caffeine tolerance, there are even some people that can take caffeine all day and evening and sleep just fine, some people can't have any caffeine at all. People do gain a caffeine tolerance meaning they can take it in higher volumes. All of this is due to adenosine receptors and genetic differences. So, you have to experiment how much caffeine you can take and adjust amount, quantity and timing of intake.

I credit The Huberman Lab podcast for much of this information.

Wake up with the sun


As the morning dawns we tend to wake up with an increase in energy and alertness. This is because we all have an internal clock that works on about a 24 hour cycle. Most people will sleep between 6 to 10 hours a day and that sleep will be in a single block. We talked about adenosine earlier in the sleep section on the website that has an effect on this but the importance of light is what I want to talk about now.

Waking up when the sun rises for most people is what we do, this is not true if you work nights or work shifts, I will talk about that later but for now let's concentrate on awaking when the sun rises. So as we wake up we get a pulse of hormones called cortisol and epinephrine or adrenaline this is what increases our alertness. It is the adrenal gland just above our kidneys where we get these hormones and in the case of epinephrine also our brain. Light is what is triggering the production of these hormones, particularly sunlight.

It is very important that the pulse of cortisol happens early in the day the alarm clock will do this but it is important to get light into our eyes very early in the day this is ideally sunlight. The reason we need to do this is another hormone called melatonin is released 12 to 14 hours after this and will start to make us feel sleepy.

So get outside in the sunlight as soon as you wake up for about 10 minutes if this is not possible try to get a bright light in the room you are in as you start your day.

I credit The Huberman Lab podcast for much of this information.