12 September 2015

Today's #Sleeptember FACT --- The Sun and Moon may not be our circadian systems' only dynamic duo

We've long understood that the rhythms we live by (sleep, wake, hunger, even our digestive system rhythms) are finely tuned to the circadian cycles of the planet which revolve around the daily light-dark cycle and, in the longer view, the seasons.

Now scientists have found a couple of neurological companions in the brain which may also be responsible for turning these cycles off and on via biochemical activity noticed in membranes referred to as ion channels.
Image courtesy www.columbia.edu

As reported in MD, sodium and potassium channels worked in opposition to shift the circadian cycles in both fruit flies and mice. This potentially suggests that circadian rhythms are not only influenced by external forces like light and darkness, but internal processes built into our systems which are entrained to those external forces.

Up to 16 percent of the population struggles with some form of circadian rhythm disorder, according to statistics published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine

That's a lot of people who might have faulty biochemistry when it comes to switching from sleep to wakefulness or mitigating other processes that are information by circadian rhythms.

Ultimately, "[a] better understanding of this mechanism could lead to new drug targets to address disturbances of the sleep-wake cycle, such as jet lag, shift work, and circadian disorders," writes Melissa Glim for MD. "It may become possible to reset a person’s internal clock to match his or her situation." Read more here