Scientists break down key sleep chemicals
Jun 15, 2004

NEW YORK, (United Press International via) -- California scientists have found how three brain chemicals regulate human sleep, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Based on five years' research and summarized in the journal Neuron, the study measured brain activity in dogs with narcolepsy, a severe sleep disorder that affects up to 200,000 U.S. residents.

Dr. Jerome M. Siegel, senior author of the study and chief of neurobiology research at the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, said scientists have known that serotonin, norepinephrine and histamine are involved in sleeping and waking.

But for the first time scientists have been able to see each of the three chemicals' distinct roles: The ebb and flow of serotonin and norepinephrine affect muscle tone, keeping the body still at night, while histamine controls arousal.

Siegel said the findings could lead to new treatments for sleep disorders and drugs that enhance wakefulness.

They might also shed light on the familiar sleep-inducing effects of cold and allergy medications that contain antihistamines.

PsychLinks note: You may also recognize serotonin and norepinephrine as two of the three major neurotransmitters (the third being dopamine) that are involved in emotional regulation and problems such as depression and anxiety disorders.