Scientists Decode the Science of Sleeping and Waking Up

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Sleeping Activity

Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, US have identified a crucial pathway in the brain that plays a key role in regulating the switch between wakefulness and sleep. The findings could lead to better treatments for insomnia and jet lag.

Researchers during the experiment focused on a particular brain area – the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the hypothalamus. This region acts as the brain’s internal clock which determines when living beings feel like going to sleep and when they feel like getting up including the duration of the sleep. The research published in Nature Communications examined mice, whose schedule is opposite to humans i.e. they sleep during the day and wake up during the night.

The element of focus within the SCN was certain ion channels – proteins that conduct electrical current, relaying information from one neuron to another. Researchers also focussed on a group of channels known as BK potassium channels in the SCN. Researchers found that the BK channels are active in the mice during night when they are awake and inactive during day when they are asleep. The role of BK channels during daytime was to inhibit wakefulness.

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