Calcium not only helps your bones stay strong, but it also controls how long we sleep, according to a recent study.Researchers at the RIKEN Quantitative Biology Center (QBiC) and the University of Tokyo in Japan have unveiled a new theory for how sleep works. The work shows how slow-wave sleep depends on the activity of calcium inside neurons.

The team used a variety of scientific techniques, including computational modeling and studying knockout mice, to search for the fundamental mechanism underlying sleep.

 Co-first author Fumiya Tatsuki said that their model made four predictions, which provided them with four starting points to search for critical genes involved in sleep.
Each prediction was tested and proven correct in experiments with knockout mice or by pharmacological inhibition and they were ultimately able to identify seven genes that work in the same calcium-related pathway to control sleep duration.
 Ueda noted that these findings should contribute to the understanding and treatment of sleep disorders and neurologic diseases that have been associated with them.
In addition to becoming new molecular targets for sleep drugs, the genes they have identified could also become targets for drugs that treat certain psychiatric disorders that occur with sleep dysfunction.