Eli5: Why does it take so long to fall asleep initially, but near instantly when your alarm wakes you up too early?

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Eli5: Why does it take so long to fall asleep initially, but near instantly when your alarm wakes you up too early?

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This is based purely off of memory from a video I watched, so eat a salt pan before reading further.

I believe our brain has a ‘soup’ of chemicals related to stress, wakefulness etc. And when we’re initially trying to sleep we may have high levels of cortisol from stress that day or if you’ve had too much caffeine, adenosine can’t signal it’s time for bed. However none of the transitions are quick, and so this is usually dubbed ‘sleep inertia’.

Going to sleep at irregular or suboptimal times will mean your body hasnt enough time to ‘wind down’ or gain momentum towards sleeping, sort of like trying to take off from the start line in 3rd gear with no time to gradually build up to it.

After sleeping for a while our brain has had a while to saturate itself with the sleepy chemicals, and also lower stress chemicals unless you’re having a nightmare hehe. Your brain does this in waves, and using an alarm clock can wake you up during the ‘high tide’ so to speak so you have heaps of chemicals screaming that you should be part way through a dream right now.

Talking purely out my butt for the last part but I believe it also could be that when we initially wake our ‘logical’ side is not as active, and so we’d be more emotionally motivated to fall back asleep, and less likely to start pre-occupying yourself with stresses and desires.