Lack of sleep can severely affect our performance and health. Moreover, a lack of sleep causes changes in the brain which the researchers were able to measure in their experiment. “Our investigations have shown that sleep deprivation increases the number of available A1 adenosine receptors. Thanks to the subsequent sleep phase, they then normalized back to the initial level,” reports PD Dr. David Elmenhorst from Jülich’s Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-2).
The A1 adenosine receptors are built into the cell wall as a type of receiver. Their function is to forward the signal from adenosine, the docking chemical messenger, to the interior of the cell, where it decreases the cell’s activity. It is thought that not only the adenosine itself but also the A1 receptors are responsible for the urge to sleep, which becomes stronger the longer a person stays awake. Adenosine is an elementary product of the energy metabolism. Its concentration varies practically second by second. The number of free receptors, in contrast, changes much more slowly and thus seems better suited for a kind of “sleep memory”.
Resistant to sleep deprivation
The effect of caffeine is also associated with this type of receptor. The stimulant accumulates at complex protein molecules and blocks them. In a series of experiments, test subjects had to do without coffee and other invigorating substances. During their 52-hour wake phase, they were subjected to several performance tests: pressing buttons to measure their reaction time and memorizing words to determine their memory performance. One striking feature was the individual differences in performance: some of the sleep-deprived participants displayed extreme lapses, sometimes lasting several seconds, while in others a performance drop was hardly measurable. Such a predisposition could be advantageous for jobs in which people regularly have to perform reliably in spite of lacking sleep.
At NeuroHealth Associates we can treat multiple conditions that in turn allow for better sleep and restoration of the brain’s receptors, as well as targeting some root causes for lack of sleep, or even allow patients to function with less sleep as some professions may require. For example, emergency medical technicians, doctors, firemen, law enforcement officers, and more.
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