For everyone out there who loves to sleep — and who finds life without the mandatory seven-to-eight hours essentially impossible — it might come as a surprise that we know next to nothing about sleep. Why do we do it? Even this most basic of questions still has scientists stumped. Theories abound about what exact purpose it may serve — other than sparing your significant other that glowering side-eye — ranging from regulating metabolism to processing memories.
Now one important and adorable critter, the fat-tail dwarf lemur, is helping scientists unlock the truth about human ZZZs. This little guy is the closest genetic relative to humans who hibernates, so scientists are using its unique patterns to help unlock the key to human sleep. During hibernation, researchers kept track of the lemur’s habits to see how his body temperature was related to his sleep cycle.
They found that, as many suspected, sleep is linked with metabolism and our ability to maintain our body temperatures.
But how does this affect you, other than the fact that it's an excuse to stare into some cuddly lemur eyes? Well, it drives home the importance of sleeping enough to maintain a healthy metabolism.
Past research has investigated the relationship between feeling haggard and our bodies’ ability to produce energy. Just last year researchers found that after four nights of getting only four hours of sleep, study participants had insulin levels similar to those in diabetic and obese individuals. Whoa, scary.
So, while the jury's still out on all the scientific specifics of a good night's sleep, we're learning more about what makes humans — and our animal friends — tick. To stay svelte and balanced, take if from our fat-tailed friend and get enough slumber. (Science Daily)
Image: Via Duke University.