Sleep drive and your body clock explained

Sleep is a huge part of our life, and it’s importance is enormous. But what is it that drives us to sleep? How does our body clock work? And why? You might have wondered this before, or perhaps you haven’t. Either way, it is a fascinating subject.

The way you sleep is down to your body clock, or your circadian biological clock. This ticker regulates the timing of sleepiness and wakefulness.

Sleep Drive

If you find yourself nodding off a lot more than you should, you’re not alone. Many people feel like this on a fairly often basis. However, in certain circumstances, these instances can be not only embarrassing, but dangerous. Ask anyone with insomnia and they will tell you how frustrating it is when you can’t sleep when you should.

People with insomnia have something happening in their heads that messes with the natural systems in their bodies that control the time they sleep. Most of us don’t suffer from this, and the natural desire we have to sleep is called our sleep drive.

But this isn’t as easy as sleeping in the evening and waking in the day.

Your homeostatic system

The homeostatic system is the scientific name for sleep drive, and it’s relatively simple in the way it operates for most people. Basically, the longer we’re aware, the more likely we are to fall asleep.

Since most of us wake up for work in the morning, this means we are about ready to go to sleep in the evening. If we were to wake in the evening, our homeostatic system, if operating on its own, would alter itself to make us tired as the sun comes up and wake when it goes down.

But it isn’t operating on it’s own. A very important part of desire to sleep is our body’s natural circadian rhythm.

Circadian rhythm

Your circadian rhythm is the part of your body that strongly desires to sleep when it is dark and wake when it is light. It’s the reason we will always, no matter how hard we try, feel as though the sleep we have during the day is not as good a quality of sleep as the snoozing we do at night.

The development of circadian rhythm was likely a response to evolution to encourage humans to stay still and silent at night, when it’s cold, and more difficult to see, and we are more likely to be eaten by predators and less likely to be able to do anything useful to the survival of the species.

Many animals have alternative rhythms that keep them up during the night, when it is safer for them to move around and avoid predators.

Our circadian rhythm can be knocked out of balance if we experience blue light in the evenings, because our body cannot distinguish between natural light from the sun and artificial light. That’s why blue light filters on laptops and phones – as well as dim light from the lamps in your house – are recommended before bed. Without them, you might find it difficult to fall asleep because your body thinks the sun is still up and you should be awake.

At the same time, your homeostatic system is telling you it has been a long time since you last slept and you should be tired. These confused signals confuse your body and can lead to conditions such as stress and anxiety.

For the best sleep results, you should honour both your circadian rhythm and your homeostatic state by rising in the morning and sleeping in the evenings.

When is the best time to sleep

Timings vary greatly, but most of us experience our strongest sleep drive between 2am and 4am. We’re also tired between 1pm and 3pm. If we’re going to nap, this is the best time to do it.

Your circadian rhythm is the reason you might struggle to become nocturnal. Even if you manage to alter your homeostatic system to accept sleeping during the day, your circadian rhythm is going to resist. That’s because your body wants you to stay alert during the day. Humans have evolved to function best in the daylight.

How can Ely mattress help me sleep?

We can’t alter your homeostatic system or overthrow your circadian rhythm, but we can give you the absolute best chance of having a decent sleep, whenever you need to do it.

Ely mattresses are comfortable and breathable, because they’re made from the very best nature has to offer. There are no man made products in our mattresses, which means they are naturally fire resistant and wick away moisture, for the most comfortable night (or day) of sleep you’ve ever had.

For more information, read about our thirteen layers.


If you’re ready to shop, browse our range of Ely mattresses.











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