The cause of your insomnia may not be what you think

Scientific discoveries about insomnia have shown that your brain actually has two systems. One helps you sleep, the other helps keep you awake.

The brain switches these two systems on and off using naturally occurring chemical messages. During the day, the brain releases chemicals that help keep us alert and active. Whereas at night, the wake system becomes less active as the brain releases chemicals that activate the sleep system. This is what makes us feel tired and promotes sleep.

When these two systems are in balance we feel alert and awake during the day and get a good night’s sleep. However, when these two systems are out of balance an overactive wake system can mean that the brain can’t slow down at night, which can lead to a difficulty falling or staying asleep.

1 in 3

It’s estimated that up to 1 in 3 Australian adults experience sleeping difficulties.

Is your sleep-wake system 
keeping you awake?

Not an actual patient. For illustrative purposes only.
  • Wake system
  • Sleep system

What does this mean for my insomnia?

Your insomnia may be the result of an overactive wake system, an underactive sleep system, or both. Because different medical treatments work on different systems, it is important to discuss all your options with your doctor to find the most appropriate treatment.

Watch Sleep Specialist, Dr David Cunnington, explain the role of the sleep-wake system.
Play video

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Complete your personalised sleep discussion guide to help you have the right conversation next time you see your GP.

Complete your personalised sleep discussion guide