Most people feel tired and tense after a sleepless night. But despite the fact that the body is physically exhausted, the brain “feels” happy, in a state of slight “intoxication”. Scientists have investigated why this happens.
As Medical Express writes, neuroscientists from the Northwestern University were the first to find out why the effect of light “intoxication” occurs after a sleepless night. During the study, they induced sleep deprivation (lack or complete absence) in mice and then examined their behavior and brain activity.
The study was published in the journal Neuron. Its authors are Dr. Mingzhen Wu and Professor Yevgenia Kozorovytska.
During the period of acute sleep loss, the animals’ dopamine levels increased and their brains rewired to maintain an upbeat mood for the next few days.
Also, after a sleepless night, the animals’ behavior became more aggressive, hyperactive and hypersexual, compared to another group that slept normally.
Using optical and genetically encoded tools, the researchers measured the activity of dopamine neurons, which are responsible for the brain’s response, and found that activity was higher in animals during a short period of sleep loss.
Although most behavioral manifestations (such as hyperactivity and increased sex drive) disappeared within hours of acute sleep loss, the antidepressant effect persisted for several days.
Researchers do not yet fully understand why sleep loss causes this effect in the brain. Scientists believe that this may be due to evolution.
“Chronic lack of sleep is well studied and its harmful effects on the body have been proven. But short-term sleep loss, for example, when a student stays up all night before an exam – less studied. We found that short-term sleep loss has a powerful anti-depressant effect and reprograms the brain. That is, a sleepless night can fundamentally change the brain in just a few hours“, says scientist Kozorvytska.
However, the scientist also warns people not to abuse a night’s lack of sleep in order to get rid of depression and lift their spirits.
“The effect of such an “antidepressant” is fleeting, and we know how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. The best fight against depression – go to the gym or for a walk” – she concludes.
Iryna Bura, “UP. Life”
Read also: “Physical activity can help in the treatment of depression. Research”