A hormone has been found to aid our body's control of sleep regulation, meaning another previously unknown process is involved in getting us up out of our wooden beds.
Dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter, acts in the pineal gland where the biological processes that allow our brains to adapt to night and day occur.
Spanish researchers from Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Enfermedades Neurodegenerativas (CIBERNED) have altered the previously accepted belief that norepinephrine receptors, which regulate the body's metabolic activity during sleep, act without the help of any other proteins. Their findings have revealed that dopamine in fact collaborates with norepinephrine towards the end of the night to counteract its sleep-inducing effect. The result is that, with dopamine's help, the brain is given a 'wake-up call'.
The findings of this investigation were published on June 19th in the journal PLoS Biology, where the possible ramifications of the research were explained. "The discovery of this new function of dopamine could be extremely useful when designing new treatments to help mitigate circadian rhythm disturbances, such as those related to jet lag, those found among people who work at night, and in cases of sleep disorders in general which, according to the World Health Organisation, affect 40 per cent of the world's population," the report said.