How do our body temperature variations affect us?

Kelly Traver
Internal Medicine

Body temperature variations affect certain chemicals released in the brain stem that promote a sleepy state.

The chemical adenosine makes you feel sleepy. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors so your brain does not perceive as much adenosine, which is why it can keep you awake. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) makes you feel sleepy. Prescription sleeping pills target the GABA receptors, making it easier for the brain to perceive GABA, thereby inducing sleepiness.

People's temperature fluctuations vary, as does their sensitivity to GABA and adenosine. People who have wide body temperature fluctuations are heavy sleepers, while those who have flatter body temperature fluctuations are lighter sleepers. With aging, body temperature fluctuations flatten. Exercise is the only known way to increase the fluctuations. In addition to body temperature and brain chemicals such as GABA and adenosine, light has an effect on sleep physiology through a chemical called melatonin. Melatonin is made in the pineal gland of the brain, and it causes sleepiness. When your eyes are exposed to light, your pineal gland makes less melatonin, thus increasing your alertness. Melatonin production decreases with age; by age 60, you produce only 20 percent of your original level. This probably plays some role in why sleep is more difficult for the elderly.

Continue Learning about Wellness

Sharing Care With Special Olympics Hawaii
Sharing Care With Special Olympics Hawaii
Driving through Honolulu on July 20 or 21, 2018, you may have noticed something strange about Aloha Tower and the IBM Building—they were both glowing ...
Read More
How do free radicals affect my health?
Dr. Michael Roizen, MDDr. Michael Roizen, MD
Free radicals can cause inflammation and can damage our organs and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). ...
More Answers
The Worst Work Habits for Your Health
The Worst Work Habits for Your HealthThe Worst Work Habits for Your HealthThe Worst Work Habits for Your HealthThe Worst Work Habits for Your Health
Kick these bad work habits to the curb for a healthier 9 to 5.
Start Slideshow
What Is a Negative Ion Generator?
What Is a Negative Ion Generator?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.