Bye-bye sleepless nights.
According to a new Neuron study, scientists may have found the sleep switch that tells the brain it’s time to shut those eyes!
The researchers, from Oxford University’s Centre for Neutral Circuits and Behaviour, discovered that this switch controls the movement and activity of neurons in the brain that are known to encourage sleep, by having them fire up when a person is tired and then having the neurons calm down when a person is rested.
The study conducted in fruit flies show that the findings should also be relevant to humans because there is a similar group of neurons in a region of the human brain, researcher Dr. Jeffrey Donlea said in a statement. “These neurons are also electrically active during sleep and, like the flies’ cells, are the targets of general anaesthetics that put us to sleep. It’s therefore likely that a molecular mechanism similar to the one we have discovered in flies also operates in humans.”
There are two mechanisms that work together to tell a body it’s time to sleep, explained researchers. The first is the 24-hour circadian clock, which tells the body when it’s night and day. The second is comparable to a temperature thermostat for sleep, or hemeostat – a mechanism in the brain that is aware of how long the body has been awake and when it is time for bed.
“The body clock says it’s the right time, and the sleep switch has built up pressure during a long waking day,” study researcher Professor Gero Miesenböck said in a statement.