Data presented by researchers from GliaLab at the Letten Centre at the University of Oslo lends further support that astrocytes are important to assure proper slow wave sleep. This finding that a non-neuronal cell type is crucial for appropriate slow wave sleep will guide future studies aimed at deciphering the mechanisms of and identifying novel treatment strategies for sleep disorders. The results have now been published in the journal Nature Communications and featured in Editors’ Highlights “From Brain to Behavior”.
Sleep is vital for our survival. Everyone can relate to how important sleep is for our optimal health simply by remembering how bad one feels after a single night of bad sleep. Yet even though sleep has been studied for over a century, the precise function of sleep and the mechanisms underlying many sleep disorders are still a mystery.
Sleep has mostly been investigated from the perspective of neurons, likely due to the lack of appropriate techniques to directly monitor non-neuronal cells in sleep. In the past couple of decades multiple studies have provided evidence that astrocytes, a star-shaped electrically non-excitable glial cell of the brain, as well might play a role in sleep, yet the signaling mechanisms that astrocytes employ in sleep have been mostly unknown.