Have you ever wondered what it is that gets you out of bed before your alarm clock?  You may attribute it to the sun streaming in your window or the noise of the next door neighbor leaving for work.  But new research from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies shows it may be your biological clock that determines when you wake up.  They have identified a new gene that acts like a wake up call for your body, signaling that it’s time to start a new day.

This research, which was published in the journal Science this past September, isolated and identified the process by which our bodies are reactivated each morning.  There is a gene, KDM5A, that releases a protein responsible for reactivating all the physiological functions that get us up and out of bed.  Understanding how this process happens provides scientists with a more complete picture of our biological clock.  With this more in-depth understanding, researchers can look at how our biological clocks contribute to the development of chronic conditions like diabetes, cancer, sleeplessness, and aging.

The team also learned that an enzyme associated with the reactivation protein is actually required for maintaining a normal sleep cycle at both the macro and micro levels.  By altering the amount of this enzyme in both human and mouse test cells, the research team was able to test its theories about how this enzyme impacts the sleep wake cycle and the subject’s sense of time.   The team showed that replacing this enzyme in mice that were deficient allowed them to function normally and re-started their sleep/wake cycle.

This research opens the door for new study into sleep disorders, the affect of an abnormal sleep cycle on the development of chronic diseases, medication and treatment alternatives and much more.  This finding may turn out to be the key to unlocking some of the mysteries around the relationship between sleep and disease.  Studies have shown that shift workers, whose biological clock is forced out of the normal 24 hour cycle, have an increased risk for some chronic diseases.

Biological clock problems may also contribute to a higher risk of other diseases as metabolic cycles are tightly controlled by this function.  This means problems with the biological clock causes disruption in these metabolic cycles which control how cells grow and divide, how the body converts sugar to fat, and many other critical functions over the course of each day.  Researchers are hopeful that by gaining a more in depth understanding of how the sleep/wake cycle operates they can develop more effective treatments and aid in creating protocols to prevent the development of disease triggered by our biological clocks.

About Valley Sleep Center:

The recipient of the 2011 Business of the Year Award by the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Valley Sleep Center has been serving the Valley since 2002. Valley Sleep Center, accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, has provided Arizona with diagnostic sleep disorder testing in a home-like atmosphere, ensuring a comfortable, relaxing experience for patients.  Their Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists consist of experienced and knowledgeable physicians who provide expert advice across a multitude of sleep related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, sleepwalking, and pediatric sleep problems.  They accept most insurance plans as well as Medicare.  For more information contact Lauri Leadley at 480-830-3900; https://valleysleepcenter.com.