New research says REM sleep needed to regulate eating

Research published this week points to Rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep as key to food intake stabilization. Prof. Dr. Antoine Adamantidis of the University of Bern headed researchers in a new study in which the hypothalamic neurons of mice were suppressed during REM sleep to study the effects as such. One result of suppressing said neurons during REM sleep was a decrease in the amount of food the mice consumed in the days after suppression.

"Using in vivo calcium imaging in freely behaving mice, we found that inhibitory neurons in the lateral hypothalamus (LHvgat) show unique activity patterns during feeding that are reactivated during REM, but not non-REM, sleep," says the research abstract. "REM sleep-specific optogenetic silencing of LHvgat cells induced a reorganization of these activity patterns during subsequent feeding behaviors accompanied by decreased food intake."

"This suggests that REM sleep is necessary to stabilize food intake," said Adamantidis via Eurekalert. "This is of particular relevance in our society where not only sleep quantity decreases but where sleep quality is dramatically affected by shift work, late night screen exposure or social jet-lag in adolescents."

These results could have big implications for the future of therapudical treatments for multiple situations. Sleep schedule and sleep deprivation have been found to affect humans in everything from heart health to attention span to depression to addiction.

Tempering excitement on this angle a bit, Adamantidis added, "however, this relationship might depend on precise circuitry, the sleep stage and other factors yet to be uncovered."

To learn more about this subject, take a peek at the research paper "REM sleep stabilizes hypothalamic representation of feeding behavior". This paper can be found with code DOI:10.1073/pnas.1921909117 as published July 30, 2020, approved for PNAS July 2, 2020.

This paper was authored by Lukas T. Oesch, Mary Gazea, Thomas C. Gent, Mojtaba Bandarabadi, Carolina Gutierrez Herrera, and Antoine R. Adamantidis. You can also take a peek at Decoding Sleep: From Neurons to Health & Mind, an interfaculty research cooperation at the University of Bern.