The longer we are awake, the more sleep drive we build up and the easier it is to both fall asleep and stay asleep. It is believed that adenosine, a by-product of energy metabolism, is responsible for sleep drive. As our brains consume energy during the day, adenosine accumulates and makes us feel sleepy.
- Staying active and engaged during the day is the best way to build up sleep drive. In fact some say the secret to a good night’s sleep is a good day. Regular physical exercise is one of the best ways to enhance sleep drive. As physical exercise may be stimulating, it is best to avoid exercise in the 2-3 hours before your desired sleep time. Be certain to check with your provider regarding the types of exercise that are best for you.
- Naps may be thought of as “sleep snacks” that partially satisfy sleep drive and thus interfere with our appetite for a full night’s sleep. If you must nap, it is best to nap as early in the day as possible and limit the duration of your nap to 30-45 minutes. Excessive daytime sleepiness may be a sign of a sleep disorder and should be discussed with your provider.
- Caffeine directly diminishes sleep drive by interfering with adenosine. Consuming caffeine later in the day may interfere with one’s ability to both fall asleep and/or stay asleep. Generally speaking, if one has difficulties falling or staying asleep, it is best to avoid caffeine after 12-2pm. Be aware that chocolate, energy drinks, many sodas and decaffeinated teas and coffee all contain caffeine. Herbal teas are caffeine free.