Why Can’t I Sleep?
Lack of sleep is also a killer for your immune system: In a gross but convincing study that involved giving a live cold virus to volunteers and then measuring the mucus and congestion among those who became infected, UCSF sleep expert Aric Prather, PhD, showed conclusively that the less people sleep, the more likely they are to get sick. "If we understand how our sleep is regulated - what makes us or keeps us from sleeping soundly - we can have better therapies for sleep disorders like insomnia," says Ptáček, the University's Coleman Professor of Neurodegenerative Diseases. How does sleep create physical restoration? What role does it have in energy? What is the difference in brain activity for someone who reports getting a "good" sleep as opposed to a "poor" one? Although sleep apnea affects 22 million Americans, most people don't recognize it in themselves and only seek treatment at the ultimatum of their miserable bed partner, whose endurance of nightly snoring, gasping, and choking sounds ensures their own variety of sleep deprivation. Many of the sleep disorder patients Krystal sees have an out-of-sync rhythm called delayed sleep phase syndrome; they tend to stay up late and sleep late. The number of sleep bouts, the duration of sleep, and when sleep occurs [have] all been comprehensively distorted by modernity. As they find these additional pieces of the genetic puzzle, they are working with Krystal and another colleague, Liza Ashbrook, MD '11, to decode how the underlying blueprints of sleep regulation work, why sleep benefits human wellness so dramatically, and what specific molecules and processes should be the targets of next-generation sleep medications and therapies.