Who doesn’t love sleep ??

If you’re the one who doesn’t get out of bed without snoozing your alarm or asking your mom to wake you up in 10 minutes, then probably you have got great company [ ? and that’s me] yeah, who doesn’t love sleeping. Each and everyone of us in this world probably does one thing in common for about 1/3rd of our day — Zzzzzzzzzz……..

Photo by Kate Stone Matheson on Unsplash

The Circadian rhythm

The sleep-wake cycle is one of the Circadian rhythms found in our body that regulates the sleep pattern and our waking up routine. Circadian rhythms are nothing but our body’s internal clock running in the background to carry out essential functions and processes. They usually run round the clock and they are the reason why your stomach growls correctly every day when you run late for your lunch.

The circadian rhythms are throughout our body and are connected to a master clock known as the circadian pacemaker found in the great “pea” sized hypothalamus. At different times of the day, different genes in the suprachiasmatic nucleus region of the hypothalamus are triggered to regulate activity throughout the body.

Photo by Mpho Mojapelo on Unsplash

Having sleeplessmesss…Here’s the Catch

The first signs of insufficient sleep are universally familiar. You may feel tired, difficulty in concentrating, perhaps irritability or even tired giggles. Studies also show association of insufficient sleep with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, depression and so on. But researchers from Harvard Medical School say prolonged sleep deprivation could be fatal from their initial research on Drosophila melanogaster [ fruit fly ] and here’s why.

Photo of Drosophila melanogaster from Synthego

1989 and so on…

This came to light in 1989 when Dr Rechtschaffen and his colleagues at the University of Chicago showed that rats die due to complete sleep deprivation. They thought that rats died due to psychological imbalance and brain damage that occurs due to sleep deprivation.

Later researchers from Harvard Medical School went on to discover why those rats die and it’s because of ……. gut, yes gastrointestinal tract. They found that those rats die due to the accumulation of molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS) in their gut

The fruit fly, ROS and Death

To study the effects of sleep deprivation, scientists went on to research with fruit flies because they share many sleep-regulating genes with humans.

Initially, they tried physical shaking [might be a can that wiggles] to make sure that the flies don’t sleep, but that went in vain. Then they went on to genetically manipulate those flies. They expressed a heat-sensitive protein called TRPA1 in the neurons of fruit flies. [Transient Receptor Potential Ankyrin 1 is a heat-activated cation channel which opens up at 29 ̊C]

Source — Vaccaro et al., 2020

When those flies are incubated at an ambient temperature of 29 ̊C, TRPA1 is induced in the neurons and as a consequence, the neurons are triggered continuously keeping those flies awake for days. And eventually the flies died early(in 10 days) to those which had normal sleep( around 40 days).

Scientists went looking for some markers in those sleep deprived flies, why they died. Most tissues, including in the brain, were indistinguishable between sleep-deprived and non-deprived flies, with one notable exception — the gut.

The guts of sleep-deprived flies had a huge build-up of “ROS” — free radicals that contain unpaired electrons that can damage DNA and other components within cells, leading to cell death. The accumulation of ROS peaked around day 10 of sleep deprivation in those flies

Antioxidants to the rescue

The researchers then supplemented the sleep deprived flies with compounds having antioxidant properties and found that the flies returned to have normal life span as other flies

Source — Vaccaro et al., 2020

They also genetically altered the flies to produce antioxidant enzymes in their gut and the results are as expected- the flies survived just like the normal good slept ones — hurrah!!!

Don’t give up on your dreams, Keep sleeping ……Zzzzzz

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