Eyes Play Important Role in Sleep

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August 26, 2008

Eye

Researchers at Oxford University have found that nerve cells in the eye use the level of brightness in a person's environment to control sleepiness, according to an article in ScienceDaily. Much of our sleep patterns — feeling sleepy at night and awake during the day — are regulated by light and darkness. Light is the most powerful regulator of our biological clock. However, according to the article, drugs that have been developed to modify sleep-wake cycles target many chemical pathways and different parts of the brain at the same time, resulting in side effects. Professor Russell G. Foster of Oxford’s Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology said that the findings reveal "a new pathway that modulates sleep and arousal," adding, "If we can mimic the effect of light pharmacologically, we could turn sleep on and off."