The ABCs of ZZZ’s

A quick lesson on common sleep terms.

Photo by Jennifer Altman
A lab technician prepares for a sleep study.

Adenosine
A hormone that accumulates in the body while awake and causes sleepiness. The longer a person is awake, the higher the adenosine levels. Stimulants like caffeine block the effects of adenosine, tricking the body into feeling alert.

Circadian Rhythm
The body’s internal clock. It ensures that physiological processes, such as sleepiness and hunger, stay in sync with the 24-hour day through internal and environmental cues like body temperature and sunlight.

Melatonin

A hormone that helps maintain the body’s circadian rhythm. In the dark, the body produces more melatonin; when it’s light, the production drops. Using illuminated electronic devices at night disrupts the production of melatonin.

Sleep Debt
The cumulative effect of sleep deprivation. For example, two hours of sleep on a typical eight-hour night results in six hours of sleep debt. Adults tend to sleep more on weekends to pay off sleep debt.

Sleep Hygiene
Habits that promote refreshing sleep and prevent daytime sleepiness. Examples include sleeping in a cool, dark, quiet room; turning off electronics; avoiding alcohol and caffeine at night; and using your bed only for sex and sleeping.

Snoring
Vibrations that occur in the soft tissue in the upper respiratory tract. Sedatives exacerbate snoring. Many OSA sufferers seek treatment when family members complain of disruptive snoring.

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