Neurons take a break during stage 2 sleep | Science News



Support credible science journalism.

Subscribe to Science News today.


Neurons take a break during stage 2 sleep

The time off prevents interruptions that could wake a person up

3:28pm, May 21, 2009

Even neurons need quiet time. A new study shows the brain cells take time out while you sleep, preventing you from waking up at the drop of a hat or other nonthreatening object.

For decades, scientists have been measuring electrical activity in the brain during sleep with electroencephalograms, or EEGs. Researchers easily recognize the hallmark dips and blips of each stage of sleep, but what brain cells are doing to produce the signals hasn’t been apparent.

Now, a new study in the May 22 Science shows that a prominent electrical signal of stage 2 sleep, called the K-complex, indicates downtime for neurons. The quiet periods could help people ignore distractions, such as sounds and touches, and stay asleep, the researchers report.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join the Society today or Log in.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content