- Sleep loss, as previously thought may not always be linked to the brain.
- A protein in the muscle can reduce the effects of sleep loss in mice.
- BMAL1 a circadian clock protein in the muscle regulates the length and manner of sleep.
The brain regulates the circadian clock and the sleep-wake up patter. So when the body is deprived of sleep, it is the brain that we look up to, for treatment.
But, scientists have found that a protein found in muscles play an equal role in sleep regulation. A collaboration between UT Southwestern's Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute and two other medical centers found a new target to deal with sleep deprivation or excessive sleepiness.
More than 100 different disorders of sleeping and waking have been identified. They are put into four categories.
- Problems with adhering to a regular sleep schedule
- Sleep disruptive behaviors
The study, done in mice shows that the protein in the muscle can lessen the effects of sleep loss. BMAL1, the circadian clock protein in the muscle regulates the length and manner of sleep.
"This finding is completely unexpected and changes the ways we think sleep is controlled," said Dr. Joseph S. Takahashi, Chairman of Neuroscience at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
The presence or absence of the protein in the brain had little effect on sleep recovery but higher levels of BMAL1 in the muscles helped in recovery from sleep deprivation.
When BMAL1 was removed from the muscles, normal sleep was distorted leading to an increased need for sleep, deeper sleep, and a reduced ability to recover.
The finding could be of use to implement therapies that could benefit people in occupations requiring long stretches of wakefulness, from military to airline piloting.
"These studies show that factors in muscles can signal to the brain to influence sleep. If similar pathways exist in people, this would provide new drug targets for the treatment of sleep disorders," said Dr. Takahashi, holder of the Loyd B. Sands Distinguished Chair in Neuroscience.
- Dr. Joseph S. Takahashi et al., Muscle, not brain, may hold answers to some sleep disorders, eLife (2017).