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Medical researchers from Tokyo University have uncovered how important calcium is to sleep.

Through experiments on mice, the researchers discovered that the higher the supply of calcium was into nerve cells, the longer the mice slept.

It is known that a high dose of calcium transported to brain cells, makes these brain cells less active. But that a high calcium supply would also play a significant role for sleeping was not known.

The team of researchers found seven genes involved in the mechanisms of how calcium are supplied into nerve cells. They modified the mice using the so-called crispr-Cas9 method. All seven genes allow calcium-dependent changes in neurons that make them resist becoming active, a process called hyperpolarization.

As predicted by the model, down-regulating six of these genes reduced sleep duration in mice and down-regulating the final gene led to longer bouts of sleep.

The research opens up new doors for future sleep research and the next step would be to look at the mechanisms that control the flow of calcium.

Sleep is one of the most fundamental physiological functions. From flies to humans, it seems that most animals sleep, but we still know so little about the molecular processes by which sleep duration is regulated. This research has provided us with a wide range of potential targets for future research and therapies,” said Professor Hiroki Ueda, lead researcher of a group at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Medicine and the RIKEN Quantitative Biology Center .

“In addition, many mental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases are also associated with sleep disorders, so understanding how sleep is regulated may lead to a deeper understanding of those diseases and future treatments.”

Dependent Hyperpolarization the Sleep Duration in Mammals