Why are some of us able to pop up with no problem at sunrise while others grudgingly give in to the snooze button’s tinny tyranny? The answer may be as basic as two simple elements: potassium and sodium.
Researchers at Northwestern University have discovered that the biological clock that wakes up and puts us to sleep may resemble a light switch controlled by sodium and potassium channels within our neurons.
The research team found that “high sodium channel activity in these neurons during the day turn the cells on and ultimately awaken an animal, and high potassium channel activity at night turn them off, allowing the animal to sleep.”
Better understanding of this mechanism could lead to new drug targets to address sleep-wake trouble related to jet lag, shift work and other clock-induced problems. Eventually, it might be possible to reset a person’s internal clock to suit his or her situation.