Researchers Discover Key Mechanism Behind Sleep

Medical News Today

Washington State University researchers have discovered the mechanism by which the brain switches from a wakeful to a sleeping state. The finding clears the way for a suite of discoveries, from sleeping aids to treatments for stroke and other brain injuries.

"We know that brain activity is linked to sleep, but we've never known how," said James Krueger, WSU neuroscientist and lead author of a paper in the latest Journal of Applied Physiology. "This gives us a mechanism to link brain activity to sleep. This has not been done before."

The mechanism - a cascade of chemical transmitters and proteins - opens the door to a more detailed understanding of the sleep process and possible targets for drugs and therapies aimed at the costly, debilitating and dangerous problems of fatigue and sleeplessness. Sleep disorders affect between 50 and 70 million Americans, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. The Institute also estimates the lost productivity and mishaps of fatigue cost businesses roughly $150 billion, while motor vehicle accidents involving tired drivers cost at least $48 billion a year.

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