Scientists Now Know Why You Toss and Turn at Night—And It Could Save Lives

By Leslie Horn on at

Ever kicked your partner as you sleep? By studying rats, University of Toronto scientists have discovered what exactly it is that makes our eyes move and our bodies paralysed while we slumber, and why some people can't stay still. And it could help them find ways to overcome REM sleep disorders, tooth grinding, narcolepsy, and other snooze-related ailments.

To solve the question, researchers monitored electrical activity in the faces of rats as they snored. They found that they only way to stop sleep paralysis was to block off both ionotropic receptors and metabotropic GABAB receptors, trumping the earlier hypothesis that just one needed to be barricaded. When they starved the rodents brains of these signals, their muscles were active, meaning they work as a team, running interference on the wires in our skulls that let us move freely.

While it's an interesting finding on its own, it could have some larger implications—around 80 percent of people who have some kind of REM disorder end up developing some kind of neurodegenerative disease like Parkinson's. And this could help them head the more serious issues off at the pass while they're still just a problem of flailing around at night and waking up groggy in the morning. [Futurity]

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