Scientists may have solved another mystery regarding sleep. According to a new study, researchers discovered the sleep “switch” that informs our brain that it’s time for sleep.
The discovery happened while researchers from Oxford University’s Centre for Neural Circuits and Behavior were studying fruit flies. This “switch” controls the activity of neurons in the brain that promote sleep. The neurons are made active when a person is tired and calming down during rest.
The findings are significant because we humans have a similar group of neurons in our brain. As we sleep, the neurons are electrically active, and addressed by anaesthetics that make us sleepy.
Researchers know that there are 2 mechanisms that work together to make us sleepy. One is our circadian rhythm, or 24-hour body clock, which tells us when it’s daytime or nighttime. Secondly is our “homeostat,” our internal temperature, located in the brain, which keeps track of how long we’ve been awake. The sleep switch gains built up pressure through the day and actives when it’s the right time.
Practice healthy sleep hygiene habits such as going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, cutting out caffeine past 2pm and exercising in the mornings. The proper amount of sleep, 7-9 hours at night, will keep your sleep switch in sync!