Dopamine, melatonin and sleep

Dopamine, melatonin and sleep. Or why to take a counsel of a pillow, and why a donut is tastier and the series are more interesting in the evening than in the afternoon? 

When I was young and naive, I seriously thought that it was enough to tell the people in the right way about the importance of sleep and biorhythms to make them impressed and improve their regime. But later I understood why this was not working. People disturb sleep regime because it carves, increases dopamine release and causes addiction. 

Dopamine, melatonin and sleep.

Lack of sleep acts like a drug and causes addiction. Sounds weird? I’m going to explain in detail. The fact is that dopamine and the sleep hormone melatonin are opposite in phase. Melatonin inhibits the activity of dopamine neurons. But if we limit the work of melatonin (stay up late in the electric light), the melatonin-dopamine balance will move towards dopamine (Zisapel, N (2001). "Melatonin-dopamine interactions: from basic neurochemistry to a clinical setting". Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology. 21 (6): 605–16.). 

Dopamine is accumulated during the day, and the sensitivity of the brain center of rewards increases (especially in people with pre-depression and depression). The decrease in dopamine levels violates the rhythms of the expression of clock genes, increases daytime sleepiness, and leads to the emergence of sleep fragmentation. Also, the work disruption of a number of hormones, such as leptin, and the decrease of daytime pleasure leads to the fact that the sensitivity of the dopamine reward system becomes high. A person begins to feel the need of the entertainment in the evening, and it gets difficult to fall asleep without it. The people try to prolong this sense of well-being that they have in the evening, and this increases the lack of sleep. 

People often do not sleep and go to bed late as their brains are desperately trying to squeeze out more dopamine in the evening and at night. Any pleasure is more pleasant in the evening when the brain produces more dopamine. Do you agree that a donut is tastier and the series are more interesting depending on how late they are? Therefore people unconsciously get addicted to the late kaif. The less of joy and pleasure you have during the day the more you want to prolong the evening pleasure; as many say to live at least in the evening. 

Therefore, this is a matter of dependence not ignorance. And you have to normalize the regimen not by talking but by changing the day routine. In some traditional cultures this sleep deprivation effect has been known. The monks and the religious people sometimes used a night service as a way to stimulate themselves and to obtain a state of euphoria. Indeed the lack of sleep leads to an increase in dopamine and to a state similar to drunkenness. For us it’s possible to use this night dopamine but very carefully and reasonably. Sleep deprivation can often help in the treatment of depression (the restarting of circadian rhythms); after an acute stress it will be helpful to sleep less, and so on. 

But if you have a sleep deprivation for a long time the number of dopamine D2 receptors decreases dramatically, while the levels of dopamine remain the same. The more you are awake the more the level of the D2 receptor decreases. (Evidence That Sleep Deprivation Downregulates Dopamine D2R in Ventral Striatum in the Human BrainJournal of Neuroscience May 9, 2012, 32 (19) 6711-6717). From other studies we know what is the danger of reducing the number of D2 receptors. The answer is that it increases the risk of impulsive behaviour, drug consumption, obesity, and gambling. A low number of receptors lead to a decrease in pleasure from life and to a decrease in the ability to learn from one's own mistakes. 

These changes also affect thinking. For example, the analysis of chess games showed that regardless of your chronotype, the strategy of the game is always more thoughtful and safe in the morning, and is faster and more risky in the evening (Time to decide: Cognition Volume 158, January 2017, Pages 44-55) 


1. Have more fun in the morning and afternoon. The more pleasure, communication, achievements and other diversified healthy dopamine you have, the less you are drawn to food and social networks in the evening. Remember that the lack of pleasure can lead to a sleep disorder. 

2. Swing open the gate of sleep. There are two wings of the gate of sleep. The first is melatonin so have more light in the morning and afternoon, decrease the light in the evening (including devices), and use blue light blockers and incandescent bulbs. The second wing is your tiredness. Give yourself enough load (physical, intellectual, etc.) to get tired well in the evening. 

3. Take a counsel of a pillow. Make the important decisions related to risk assessment only in the morning.. Yes, the night brings counsel. 

4. The evening is more creative. The change of the sensitivity of different receptors to dopamine and the accumulation of dopamine contributes to greater impulsiveness, spontaneity, creativity and creative work. The most important is to create at the desk not to try your luck in a casino or to find your pleasure in the fridge.