Could the wake system in your brain be causing your insomnia?

Understanding the two systems that affect your sleep

You know you have insomnia, but what does that really mean? Our understanding of how our brains regulate sleep and wake has evolved. As a result, we’ve gained greater insight into insomnia and what causes it.

Scientific discoveries about insomnia have shown that your brain actually has two systems. One helps you sleep; the other helps keep you awake. The wake system sends out signals that put your brain into an alert, or more active, state. This helps you wake up in the morning and stay awake during the day. The sleep system sends signals that help you fall and stay asleep at night. The feeling of being trapped between wake and sleep has more science behind it than you may think.

Click the tabs below to learn about both the wake and sleep systems and how they work with each other.

Tap on the tabs below to learn about both the wake and sleep systems and how they work with each other.

When your wake system is active and your sleep system can't take over, this may be what is causing your insomnia. When your wake system is active and your sleep system can't take over, this may be what is causing your insomnia.
Your brain's sleep system may not be able to overcome your wake system. Your brain's sleep system may not be able to overcome your wake system.
Your brain's wake system can affect your sleep.Your brain's wake system can affect your sleep.
When your wake system is active and your sleep system can't take over, this may be what is causing your insomnia. When your wake system is active and your sleep system can't take over, this may be what is causing your insomnia.
Your brain's wake system can affect your sleep. Your brain's wake system can affect your sleep.
Your brain's sleep system may not be able to overcome your wake system.Your brain's sleep system may not be able to overcome your wake system.

When your two systems function as they should, they complement each other, taking turns being in charge and sending signals at the right times. But that’s not always the case. If your wake system stays active when it’s time to sleep, it’s considered to be in an overactive state and insomnia may be a result.

Talk to your health care professional about your wake and sleep systems and what may be causing your insomnia.

Sometimes your behaviors could have a strong impact on the over stimulation of your wake system. Test your knowledge about sleep hygiene with our Sleep Habits Quiz, or you can also explore more information and get tips on how to deal with insomnia in our Sleep Talk section.

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