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The Hidden Connection between Anxiety and Sleep

We always tend to experience longer and sleepless nights when we are in stress or are anxious about something. Such emotions inflict wakefulness and can also turn you into an insomniac.  Scientists have now spotted neurons that play crucial roles in connecting sleep with emotions. The research can prove to be very useful in discovering appropriate drug targets to cure sleep disorders.

The key player in responding to fear, anxiety and stress is the bed nucleus of ‘Stria Terminalis’ (BNST), an extended part of our brain called amygdala. The BNST controls endocrine and autonomic reactions along with the behavioral expression of anxiety and fear.

The researchers found that acute optogenetic excitation of neurons in BNST during Non Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep in mice, resulted in immediate transition to wakefulness state. The same effects were not observed while experimenting on REM sleep. Thus, prolonged excitations of these neurons result in an extended state of wakefulness which can be abolished by administering a dual orexin receptor blocker, DORA 22. 


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