Friday March 22, 2019

Mystery Solved: Why Do You Feel Sleepy When You Are Sick?

The nemuri protein fights germs with its inherent antimicrobial activity and it is secreted by cells in the brain to drive prolonged, deep sleep after an infection.

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The nemuri protein fights germs with its inherent antimicrobial activity and it is secreted by cells in the brain to drive prolonged, deep sleep after an infection.
The nemuri protein fights germs with its inherent antimicrobial activity and it is secreted by cells in the brain to drive prolonged, deep sleep after an infection. Pixabay

Researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have found a gene that acts as a direct link between illness and the need for more sleep.

In a study of over 12,000 lines of fruit flies, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in the US found the single gene, called nemuri, that increases the need for sleep.

The nemuri protein fights germs with its inherent antimicrobial activity and it is secreted by cells in the brain to drive prolonged, deep sleep after an infection.

“While it’s a common notion that sleep and healing are tightly related, our study directly links sleep to the immune system and provides a potential explanation for how sleep increases during sickness,” said Amita Sehgal, Professor at the varsity.

Without the nemuri gene, flies were more easily aroused during daily sleep, and their acute need for an increase in sleep — induced by sleep deprivation or infection — was reduced.

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Over expression of nemuri increased sleep in bacteria-infected flies and led to their increased survival compared to non-infected control flies. Pixabay

On the other hand, sleep deprivation, which increases the need for sleep, and to some extent infection, stimulated nemuri to be expressed in a small set of fly neurons nestled close to a known sleep-promoting structure in the brain.

Over expression of nemuri increased sleep in bacteria-infected flies and led to their increased survival compared to non-infected control flies.

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Moreover, the researchers, in the study published in the journal Science, noted that an immune cell molecule — interleukin-1 (IL-1) — is implicated in human sleep.  Pixabay

In response to infection, nemuri appears to kill microbes, most likely in the peripheral parts of the fruit fly body, and increases sleep through its action in the brain.

Also Read: Train Your Brain By Following Good Habits Constantly

Moreover, the researchers, in the study published in the journal Science, noted that an immune cell molecule — interleukin-1 (IL-1) — is implicated in human sleep.

IL-1 accumulates after prolonged wakefulness and appears to promote sleep, suggesting that nemuri is a working link between immune function and sleep. (IANS)

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Amazing Fact! Your Genes Determine Your Quality of Sleep

"Our study suggests that many of the genes important for sleep in animal models may also influence sleep in humans and opens the door to better understanding of the function and regulation of sleep," Dashti added.

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This was comparable to other well-recognised factors that influenced sleep duration. Pixabay

Experiencing problems like insomnia or hypersomnia could be genetic, say researchers who identified 76 new gene regions associated with the time a person sleeps.

It is well known that regularly getting adequate sleep — 7 to 8 hours per night — is important for health, and both insufficient sleep — 6 or fewer hours — and excessive sleep — 9 hours or more — have been linked to significant health problems.

Family studies have suggested that 10 to 40 per cent of variation in sleep duration may be inherited, and previous genetic studies have associated variants in two gene regions with the sleep duration.

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“Our study suggests that many of the genes important for sleep in animal models may also influence sleep in humans and opens the door to better understanding of the function and regulation of sleep,” Dashti added. Pixabay

The study from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, US, analysed genetic data from more than 446,000 participants, who self-reported the amount of sleep they typically received.

The study identified 78 gene regions — including the two previously identified — as associated with sleep duration.

While carrying a single gene variant influenced the average amount of sleep by only a minute, participants carrying the largest number of duration-increasing variants reported an average of 22 more minutes of sleep, compared with those with the fewest.

This was comparable to other well-recognised factors that influenced sleep duration.

 

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Family studies have suggested that 10 to 40 per cent of variation in sleep duration may be inherited, and previous genetic studies have associated variants in two gene regions with the sleep duration. Pixabay

“While we spend about a third of our life asleep, we have little knowledge of the specific genes and pathways that regulate the amount of sleep people get,” said Hassan Saeed Dashti from MGH.

“Our study suggests that many of the genes important for sleep in animal models may also influence sleep in humans and opens the door to better understanding of the function and regulation of sleep,” Dashti added.

The study, published in Nature Communications journal, also found shared genetic links between both short and long sleep duration.

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It also found factors such as higher levels of body fat, depression symptoms and fewer years of schooling, implying negative effects from both too little and too much sleep.

While short sleep duration was genetically linked with insomnia and smoking, long sleep duration was linked with ailments such as schizophrenia, Type-2 diabetes and coronary artery disease. (IANS)