Novel research shows that the human brain increases the thirst response prior to snoozing. This is most probably due to the biological clock which is located inside the brain.
The brain’s biological clock acts on the thirst drive and stimulates it before one goes to sleep at night. This discovery, alongside the molecular mechanism that lies at its core, provides important clues as to how the clock manages such functions of physiology.
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Although the original research was carried out on mice in a lab, the repercussions on mankind are not to be overlooked. Drugs that are used to ease the symptoms of night shift workers or travelers suffering from jet lag could be more fine-tuned thanks to this research in the future.
Rodents always increase their imbibing of liquids two hours before they go to sleep. However, this response was not due to any dehydration.
The legitimate question is that if such is the case then why do rats drink more water than usual right before some shut-eye?
Scientists found that restricting access to water in mice two hours before sleep did lead to substantial dehydration towards the end of their naps though.
Therefore it appears to be the case that drinking more water than usual before sleep time is a pre-emptive strategy. This method is used by the rats to ward off the possibility of dehydration during the lengthy sleep period their bodies undergo.
The scientists than looked into the activity that enables this mechanism to go into overdrive. The brain has a center that monitors thirst neurons. That is for sure. So, the SCN which regulates circadian cycles in the brain could possibly be sending signals to the thirst neurons.
Vasopressin, which is a neuropeptide, is released by the SCN. It may play a critical role in this whole scenario. The scientists employed sniffer cells which fluoresce in the presence of vasopressin.
They applied these cells in the brains of rodents and electrically controlled the SCN from outside via probes imbedded in it. A large surge in sniffer cells occurred.
Thus vasopressin was being secreted in the brain due to the biological clock. Optogenetics were used to explore this issue further. Genetically engineered mice were employed in the experiments.
The fact that vasopressin was being released was thus confirmed with 100% certainty. Therefore now we know why human beings have a tendency to drink some warm milk before retiring for the night.
The study was published in the journal Nature by McGill University researchers.