Imagine this: You're having a vivid dream of something chasing you. You run and leap across buildings, jumping and spinning.
What keeps your body from actually acting out these movements during REM sleep, even as they play out so actively in your brain?
Scientists have pinpointed the mechanism that keeps our muscles paralyzed, and they say that understanding could be a boon to finding treatments for sleep conditions and disorders like REM sleep behavior disorder, narcolepsy and tooth grinding. REM sleep behavior disorder occurs when people act out their dreams, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Researchers conducted their study in rats to find that there are two separate chemical systems that seem to be at play in helping the body stay paralyzed during REM sleep. Specifically, researchers found that when they blocked both the metabotropic GABAB receptors and the GABAA/glycine ionotropic receptors, the rats moved when they should have been still during REM sleep.
"By identifying the neurotransmitters and receptors involved in sleep-related paralysis, this study points us to possible molecular targets for developing treatments for sleep-related motor disorders, which can often be debilitating," Dennis J. McGinty, Ph.D., a sleep researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the new study, said in a statement.