Enjoy dreaming? Two key genes may be to thank. A new study in mice finds that these “dream genes” are essential to that phase of slumber that brings people bizarro-world visions of taking high school math tests naked, losing teeth and soaring through the air.
Without the genes, called Chrm 1 and Chrm 3, mammals would not experience rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, during which the brain is as active as it is during wakefulness but the body is paralyzed. The discovery is important, researchers said, because poor sleep and psychiatric disorders are linked. So, understanding the basic control of sleep in the brain could refine pharmaceutical treatments for both sleep and psychiatric problems, said study leader Hiroki Ueda of Riken, a Japanese research institute.
“Sound sleep is essential to the quality of human life, while some impairment in sleep may lead to various untoward consequences,” Ueda told Live Science in an email. But the “molecular machinery [of sleep] largely remains to be revealed, hindering the development of treatments for sleep-related diseases.”