The key to deep sleep may be a high-protein diet

According to a study published in Cell, a high-protein diet may promote deep sleep. The study found that mice and fruit flies that consumed more protein were less likely to wake up from disturbances such as mechanical stimulation.

A high-protein diet may help you fall into deep sleep. Photo by Tony Tallec/Alamy

“We want to understand how you inhibit sensory arousal.” Harvard University’s Dragana Rogulja says that when you fall asleep, you stop consciously perceiving the world, including things that might disrupt sleep.

She and her colleagues assessed how 3400 genes affected the flies’ sleep. The researchers monitored the flies as they slept on a platform on a loudspeaker, which intermittently vibrates.

Low-frequency vibrations awakened about 85 percent of fruit flies, and one of two of their genes was silenced: the first controlled the production of a chemical messenger called CCHa1, which regulates circadian behavior; Another gene controls the receptor for CCHa1. Both genes are expressed in the nervous system and gut.

Removing these genes from the gut alone is enough to make insects more likely to wake up in a shaking. Further analysis revealed that certain cells in the gut produced CCHa1 when exposed to the protein. CCHa1 then travels from the gut to the brain, where it inhibits arousal during sleep.

Taken together, these findings suggest that proteins play a role in preventing wakefulness during sleep. To confirm this, the team fed the flies a day’s high-protein diet and a regular diet. Flies in the high-protein diet group responded to shock only half as well as those in the regular diet group. Similar experiments in mice produced similar results.

Still, Rafael Pelayo of Stanford University in California said: “A protein-rich diet will make you sleep deeper, at least in flies and mice, but this may not work for humans.” ”

The results of the study are also only applicable to mechanical stimuli such as vibration. Rogulja said the genetic alterations did not change how easily the animals woke up from other disturbances such as heat or sound, meaning that many other pathways also controlled awakenings during sleep. (Source: Li Huiyu, China Science News)

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