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What Triggers Dopamine?

author image Jonathan Croswell
Jonathan Croswell has spent more than five years writing and editing for a number of newspapers and online publications, including the "Omaha World-Herald" and "New York Newsday." Croswell received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Nebraska and is currently pursuing a Master's of Health and Exercise Science at Portland State University.
What Triggers Dopamine?
How much you sleep can influence your dopamine levels. Photo Credit Day sleep concept image by drx from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter found in the brain that aids in several aspects of brain function. These areas include motor function and mood, and possibly the best-known role dopamine plays relates to your perceived happiness. In fact, many pleasurable activities can cause dopamine to increase, such as having sex and eating. This relationship can also increase the risk of addiction to dopamine-increasing drugs. Knowing what can cause a release of dopamine in the brain can help you improve your lifestyle while understanding how your brain works.

Illicit and Pharmaceutical Drugs

Several different pharmaceutical and illicit drugs are designed to greatly increase the release of dopamine and its rate of binding to the synapses of your mind. This can be helpful to individuals with mental conditions like depression, which are characterized by low dopamine level; but these drugs can easily lead to addiction if used improperly. Many illicit drugs, such as meth and cocaine, create a huge surge in the brain's dopamine levels, often making it difficult to sleep and inducing the sensation of euphoria. Users of these drugs can quickly become dependent on these drugs, relying on them to provide a level of happiness they can only experience through the use of drugs.


According to ScienceDaily.com, your dopamine levels can be affected by how much you sleep at night. Sleeping less can increase dopamine levels, and one sleepless night can can significantly raise the presence of dopamine in your brain. This may help explain how the brain is able to keep the body awake despite the urge to sleep, according to ScienceDaily.com. Despite the increase of dopamine during sleep deprivation, this chemical is unable to offset the mental sharpness lost to fatigue.


According to research conducted by Bryn Mawr University, dopamine may be a chemical reaction to stress levels, and may be employed by the brain as a coping mechanism to deal with this stress. This rise has been identified in other organisms in response to external stimuli, such as cold temperatures, that force the body into stressful states. Raising dopamine levels can also help restore mental clarity lost to the frustration and confusion of a situation.

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