Why Sleep Deprivation Can Boost Our Mood


It is highly impractical to deprive ourselves of sleep to relieve symptoms of depression, though it does work.

About 60 to 70 percent of the time, sleep deprivation lifts the mood of depressed people. Unfortunately, it only works until the individual once again falls asleep.

Still, researchers are looking at why less sleep means increased mood. They reason that if new medications can mimic the chemical brain-effects of sleep deprivation, they will be effective in relieving depressive symptoms.

Why We Become Sleepy

Scientists know that human brain chemistry related to sleepiness involves a type of glial cell called an astrocyte. Astrocytes and other glials are the most abundant type of cell in our nervous system but do not carry electrical impulses; they play significant supportive roles.

While we are busy during the day entering data on the computer, studying history, or running the kids to soccer games, our brain’s astrocytes are continuously releasing adenosine, a neurotransmitter. The adenosine builds up in our brain by binding to receptor sites on our neurons.

This daily accumulation of adenosine eventually results in “sleep pressure” or a sense of sleepiness, including a reduction in the functioning of memory and attention. When enough receptor sites are filled, we want nothing more than to crawl under the covers and snooze.

Is Adenosine the Mood Booster?

To find out if the neurotransmitter adenosine is responsible for the antidepressant effect of sleep deprivation, researchers rounded up some depressed mice. To mimic sleep deprivation, they gave each mouse three doses of a substance that triggers our neuron’s adenosine receptors.

The mice showed no change in their normal sleep cycle but enjoyed a quick improvement in mood as evidenced by their behavior (apparently they refused to answer survey questions). The positive mood effects lasted about 48 hours and confirmed the researchers hunch that adenosine accumulation causes the lift in mood following lack of sleep.

Unfortunately, this research does not solve the problem of depression but it adds another piece to the complex puzzle of why our moods fluctuate. No matter how long it takes to collect and place all the pieces we must never forget the following wise words concerning sleep.

Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone. ~ Anthony Burgess

Source: Scientific American


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