What Makes Us Go To Sleep?

February 27, 2015 - By Dr Robin Lawrence

Apparently it is a simple switch!

What Makes Us Go To Sleep?

The switch in the brain that sends us off to sleep has been identified by researchers at Oxford University’s Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour in a study in fruit flies.

The switch works by regulating the activity of a handful of sleep-promoting nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain. The neurons fire when we’re tired and need sleep, and dampen down when we’re fully rested. ‘When you’re tired, these neurons in the brain shout loud and they send you to sleep,’ says Professor Gero Miesenbeck of Oxford University, in whose laboratory the new research was performed. Although the research was carried out in fruit flies, or Drosophila, the scientists say the sleep mechanism is likely to be relevant to humans.

Journal Reference: Jeffrey M. Donlea, Diogo Pimentel, Gero Miesenbeck. Neuronal Machinery of Sleep Homeostasis in Drosophila. Neuron, 2014; 81 (4): 860 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.12.013

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