Who doesn’t enjoy a good night’s sleep? Sleep is an essential and enjoyable part of life that allows us to recharge from the day’s activities and prepare ourselves for tomorrow.
Sleep is essentially a periodic suspension of consciousness which the body uses to restore itself. The Centre for Disease Control tells us that adults need a minimum of seven hours each night for optimal health and well-being. Getting less than this can cause health issues and affect those around us.
A considerable 50 to 70 million US adults have some form of sleep disorder according to the American Sleep Association. Almost 50% of us snore and nearly 40% of us unintentionally fall asleep during the day. A disturbing 5% of people have fallen asleep while driving. Driving while sleepy causes around 1500 fatalities and 40,000 injuries annually in the United States. Clearly, we need to ensure we all have enough good quality sleep!
Despite the essential nature of sleep, scientists are still researching this vital characteristic of human behavior. Let’s explore sleep and the central role that the key health indicator Ca2+ATPase plays in this intriguing phenomena.
What Happens When We Sleep?
A vast range of complex processes occurs when we sleep. One of the main outward signs of sleep is that our breathing slows down. Inwardly, our heart rate also slows, leading to a drop in body temperature. Our muscles relax, and their blood supply increases, which allows the tissues to grow and repair.
As you sleep, the brain cleans itself of waste accumulated in the central nervous system throughout the day. By removing toxic byproducts, your mind can work efficiently when you wake up. In addition to clearing toxins, your brain is busy filing away memories and essential information.
The immune and hormonal systems also repair themselves and balance the supplies of immune cells and hormones throughout the body.
As you can see, sleep allows many necessary processes to take place. What regulates sleep itself? The answer is the pineal gland.
How The Pineal Gland Controls Sleep
The pineal gland is a tiny endocrine or hormone-producing gland that sits in the space between our brain’s two halves. It produces the hormone melatonin, which is the driving force behind helping us fall asleep and continue sleeping in a regular daily pattern.
When light levels fall in the evening, our eyes send a signal to the hypothalamus, a highly specialized part of the brain. Its primary job is translating information from the nervous system to the endocrine glands. Darkness triggers the pineal gland to produce melatonin.
Melatonin then activates the part of the brain that makes us tired. It’s produced throughout the night, helping keep us asleep. The increasing light at dawn stops melatonin production.
Ca2+ATPase and the Pineal Gland
As with other body systems, an increase in intracellular calcium triggers activity. In the pineal gland cells, it stimulates the production of N-acetyltransferase activity (NAT). NAT is the enzyme that converts serotonin into melatonin.
Ca2+ATPase carefully regulates intracellular calcium levels, so the correct amount of NAT is produced. With reduced Ca2+ATPase, the balance of intracellular calcium is affected, leading to cellular damage that hinders the creation of NAT and, in turn, melatonin. As a result, your good night’s sleep goes out the window.
Ca2+ATPase also keeps the pineal gland healthy. As we age, our bodies can deposit calcium in the pineal gland, which means the cells gradually degenerate, die, and break down. This leads to a lowering of melatonin production. Ca2+ATPase research has shown that reduced levels could contribute to pineal gland calcification.
Melatonin Supports Ca2+ATPase
Ca2+ATPase is essential for melatonin levels and pineal gland health. Interestingly, melatonin stimulates Ca2+ATPase production in other parts of the body.
Research in rats showed that those with no ability to produce melatonin had much lower Ca2+ATPase levels in the heart tissues compared to normal rats. Melatonin is heart friendly!
Excessive alcohol lowers Ca2+ATPase in the brain. Researchers showed that if they pre-treated rats with supplemental melatonin, this significantly reduced alcohol’s adverse effects on brain Ca2+ATPase levels.
Remember that Ca2+ATPase is a biomarker indicating disease. Healthy levels lower your risk of health issues.
Ca2+ATPase Means Better Sleep and a Healthier You
Everyone needs sleep to restore our bodies and prepare ourselves for the next day. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for controlling this essential process.
Making sure our bodies have enough Ca2+ATPase means we have sufficient melatonin levels to allow us the sleep that we need each night. Not only that, melatonin in return stimulates Ca2+ATPase throughout the body. This leads to a healthier heart, pancreas, and brain.