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How Serotonin Governs Our Sleep-Wake Cycle?

Updated on August 21, 2012

Serotonin and its role

Serotonin – a chemical neurotransmitter produced in our brain, plays a crucial role in controlling our sleep-wake cycle, known as circadian cycle or more commonly perceived as biological clock.

In this hub I will discuss how serotonin, the chemical name of which is 5-hydroxytryptophan dominates such a central system in our human body.

In the morning:

When we wake up in the morning, as soon as our eyes open, the light rays fall on our eyes, the retina starts producing serotonin which is then further produced by our brain as neural signals are sent by the retina to the brain. This magical molecule switches our body ‘on’. It recharges our body and prepares us mentally and physically for the hectic regimen of activities through the day. More you find opportunities to expose yourself to the sunlight in the morning hours, serotonin will be produced in abundance and will keep you light-hearted, happy and confident.

At the dusk:

In the early evening, when the sun sets, the serotonin gets converted into another molecule called melatonin, which whizzes our body and mind in the ‘off’ mode. The function of melatonin, the ‘nightshift’ version of serotonin is to repair the damaged cells and tissues, to refurbish the wear and tear which took place during the action-packed daytime. So production of melatonin induces a slowdown of our body, when we feel tired, prompting us off to sleep. Once we fall asleep, melatonin works through the night to fix the damage, while we rest, so that our next day is again filled with freshness.

What happens when we disrupt the sleep-wake cycle forcibly?

When you decide to party late night or study through the night before the exams, you usually binge on alcohol, coffee or cigarette, all of which prevent the formation of the right amount of melatonin as the nerves get stimulated and the heart rate and the rate of breathing gets enhanced to keep us active for some more time. Serotonin levels in the blood rise and we feel charged up, however when the effect wears off, the levels fall sharply, making us feel extremely low.

Hence usually a day after a wild night is not your best day, you feel tired, recalling of facts you may have studied the previous night is difficult, you tend to make mistakes while working, you may fall asleep during an important meeting and a lot of embarrassing situations may arise. Due to the lack of quality recharging, your body becomes lethargic and sloppy, you feel craving for food, especially sweets as your brain wants a ‘pick me up’ during the day and no matter what you do, you will revitalize only after a good restful sleep.

In a nutshell:

Serotonin, the molecule of happiness can only make us happy and keep us in positive mood, if we do not meddle with its normal functioning.

Now that you have learnt about the science behind a happy and fulfilling day, get going in your pursuit of happiness!


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      Kerry43 5 years ago

      Excellent article, thank you for sharing. I wrote one recently which included information about melatonin.

      Have a happy day:)


    • sriparna profile image

      Sriparna 5 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks kj force! Your comments are encouraging!

    • kj force profile image

      kjforce 5 years ago from Florida

      sriparma...very well written hit the nail on the head with your definitions..

      I have always loved it when people say after partying hardy " I'm trying to catch up on my sleep" such can never catch up...people do not realize just how important sleep is to the mind,organs,muscles and the bodys' immune system..

      thank you for giving a heads up !!!