The discovery of a switch in brain that makes us fall asleep could help in finding drugs to deal with sleep disorders.
Scientists said that though the research was carried on fruit flies or drosophila, the system is likely to be applied to humans as well. The switch controls sleep-promoting nerve cells or neurons in the brain. Neurons start working when we're tired and haven't slept for long hours and they dampen down when we are at rest.
Advertisement"When you're tired, these neurons in the brain shout loud and they send you to sleep," says Professor Gero Miesenböck of Oxford University, in whose laboratory the research was carried out.
Researchers found out that sleep is determined by two key points in the body. First, the body clock that works in both animals and humans for a 24-hour day and night cycle. The other system is 'homeostat,' that keeps a tab on the body's waking hours and makes it go off to sleep when the body needs energy and the most important thing - rest.
Researchers are trying to find out ways to activate sleep switch in order to treat sleep disorders such as insomnia. Other sleep disorders can range from snoring to sleep apnea, sleep deprivation.
Flies do not show any movement when they go to sleep and more disturbance is needed to wake them up. But there were problems noticed in sleep-deprived flies. They are more likely to nodding off and are cognitively impaired and they exhibit severe learning and memory problems. And these are some of the problems faced by humans as well in case of sleep loss.