Key Sleep Discovery Made

Wednesday 15th September 2010

Researchers at Washington State University have found the mechanism that switches the brain from sleeping to waking in a landmark discovery that could enable scientists to develop treatments for a range of sleeping problems. The new research, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology decisively links sleep and brain activity, in a scientific first, by explaining how a rush of the energy chemical, adenosine triphosphate, is released by active brain cells and binds to protein molecules to promote sleep.

By examining the brain's release of these sleep regulating hormones scientists have been able to determine that some parts of the brain may be asleep whilst others are awake – which could offer new insight into the workings of sleep disorders including insomnia.

Researchers explain that the findings could also be used to boost the effectiveness of sleep drug therapies – as drugs can be manufactured that will attach themselves to proteins that adenosine triphosphate binds to.

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