The Same Mechanism That Protects Brain-cells Also Regulates Sleep

Here’s another very good reason for you to get your sleep schedule in order.

While it is already established that chronic sleep loss increases the risk of Alzheimer’s, it turns out, sleep and the ways that the brain protects its cells from degeneration, have a profound connection too. The same mechanism that protects your brain from degenerative illnesses like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s may also be responsible for regulating your sleep, says new research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Canva - Pug Sleeping Beside Woman on Bed

And here’s why this research is so significant.

A Signalling Pathway That Controls Abnormal Protein Build-up

This is the first time that scientists have been able to tie sleep with the protein removal mechanism of the brain, concluding that one of the important functions of sleep may be to reduce cellular-stress caused in the brain by wakefulness.

When you sleep, the brain steps up the removal of potentially harmful proteins – proteins similar to the ones that clutter the brain in diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. More specifically, researchers discovered that a signaling pathway known as PERK, that the brain uses to prevent the accumulation of abnormal protein in brain cells is also used for sleep.

Canva - Woman Sleeping

Ashwagandha – Beneficial For Sleep and Brain Cells

This connection between sleep and brain-cell protection also brings the herb Ashwagandha to mind – it is known for both these benefits.

Aswhagandha or somnifera (Latin for ‘sleep-inducing’) is known to help you sleep better. It has also been shown to increase levels of key antioxidant enzymes, clear protein plaques, increase dopamine levels, and reconstruct nerve networks and synapses. It prevents, repairs, and heals brain cell damage and helps improve muscle control, movement, balance, and memory – all of which are beneficial for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s patients. Whether it does this using the PERK signaling pathway is of course, unknown.

In the meantime, you can do your bit in helping your brain reduce cellular-stress, by making sure you get the right amount of z’s.

References 

  1. Sarah Ly, Daniel A. Lee, Ewa Strus, David A. Prober, Nirinjini Naidoo. Evolutionarily Conserved Regulation of Sleep by the Protein Translational Regulator PERKCurrent Biology, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.02.030