Although it has been a known fact that caffeine in coffee can keep us awake, even when we feel sleepy, it was not clear how exactly this happens. Scientists from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas have found out exactly how caffeine keeps us awake.
As the brain cells become overworked and tired, a chemical compound called adenosine sends impulses to the brain cells to shutdown and sleep sets in. Caffeine, present in the tea or coffee we drink, stops the secretion of adenosine and people remain to stay awake.
Increased neural activity cause the adenosine to slow down the functions of the arousal centers of the brain. These arousal center areas control the entire activity of the brain. As the brain slows down, the process reaches to all the neural functions of the body resulting in feeling tiredness and settling down to sleep.
According to the researchers, most of the major psychiatric disorders have sleep problems as a symptom. The new study will help solve some of these problems of lack of sleep and may prove way to find ways to tackle these symptoms of insomnia or sleep disturbances.
The study will be published in the current issue of the journal Neuron.
Reference: Journal Neuron, issue April 21, 2005