A recent discovery by Israeli scientists may have serious implications for the prevention of sudden infant death syndrome, as well as apnea, short-term respiratory arrest in scientists. Scientists say they have discovered the reason why people sometimes awaken for a short time in sleep. This discovery could have serious implications for the prevention of sudden infant death syndrome and apnea, short-term respiratory arrest during sleep.
The study, the results of which were recently published in the journal Science Advances, focused on the so-called micro-awakenings, that is, the moments when a person subconsciously wakes up for a period from a few seconds to a minute. Scientists managed to find a connection between these periods and the activity of neurons in the brain.
“There has been a lot of debate in the past about why people have such micro-awakenings so often in their sleep, ” one of the authors, Ronnie Bartch of Israel's Bar-Ilan University, told IFLScience. "We hypothesized that awakening during sleep is caused by a phenomenon of neural noise in the brain."
Neural noise is the activity of our neurons in the brain at rest. Researchers have found that random neural noise is able to drive the excitation of the neurons responsible for awakening to a level above a certain level, albeit for a very short period. As a result, each person has several such micro-awakenings during the night's sleep.
“Micro-awakenings can last anywhere from one second to a minute, ” Bartch said. - Usually they are very temporary, and a person does not remember them when he wakes up in the morning. The problem is that if they last too long, we start to wake up, and then different things happen to us. "
Curiously, this effect was first discovered not in humans, but in zebrafish. While this may sound a little odd, zebrafish are known to be ectotherms, meaning they maintain their body temperature at ambient levels.
"This is very similar to the behavior of newborn babies, which also exhibit ectothermic properties, " said study leader Hila Dvir of the same Bar-Ilan University. "As far as micro-awakenings are concerned, in zebrafish they occur very similarly to how they occur in humans."
The most important thing in this whole story is the role that temperature plays for babies. There is a linear relationship: higher temperatures are more likely to reduce the amount of neural noise, which leads to fewer micro-awakenings during sleep. Conversely, colder temperatures cause an increase in these awakenings.
This is important because the research findings could have serious implications for understanding sudden infant death syndrome and sleep apnea. If a baby sleeps in a warmer room, he is more likely to avoid unpleasant incidents. For example, his head will not be completely covered with a blanket, which can lead to hypoxia, that is, a lack of oxygen in the brain. At a lower temperature, the infant's sleep may be less sound, in other words, he is more susceptible to stimuli.
The result of the study may be the emergence of a new generation of sleeping pills, namely drugs aimed at reducing neural noise and improving the quality of sleep in adults. In addition, drugs could be developed that, on the contrary, increase neural noise and can help reduce the risk of such dangerous phenomena as sudden infant death syndrome and sleep apnea.