Ever wondered why you feel groggy and sleepy while suffering from a cold or flu? Researchers believe that may finally have a concrete answer on that.
According to a study published in eLife, humans, like animals, feel sickness-induced sleep to recover after falling ill, hence why people act less responsive towards their surroundings.
To better understand sickness-induced sleep, researchers studied a simple worm’s nervous system. In that worm, it was noted that a single nerve cell released chemicals causing the worm to fall sleep during an illness.
One of the chemicals responsible is FLP-13, which triggers sleep-inducing features during illness on animals.
With that in mind, scientists were curious to find out which cells interacts with FLP-13 in the nervous system, in addition to the receptor that recognizes this type of chemical.
Additionally, scientists sought out to answer whether or not the receptor turns on cells that initiate sleep or shuts them off causing wakefulness.
Next, genetic mutations were examined to figure out what causes the worms to fall sleep after FLP-13 is released into the body.
What researchers found were mutated worms that lacked a receptor protein known as DMSR-1, fail to become sleep as a response to FLP-13. Therefore, DMSR-1 is essential for FLP-13 to initiate sleep, according to PsyPost.
“Similar signaling may operate in humans and other animals to regulate sleep during sickness. These findings create a launching pad towards future research into the mechanisms for illness-induced sleepiness in humans and other organisms,” the study’s lead author concluded.