Newswise – Scientists in Texas are studying why people get drowsy andfall asleep, and how caffeine blocks that process. Whencells in a certain part of the brain become overworked, acompound in the brain called adenosine kicks in, tellingthem to shut down. This causes people to become drowsy andfall asleep, but caffeine blocks the adenosine, keeping youawake. This understanding may eventually lead to newtreatments for insomnia.

In insomnia, the adenosine isn?t being released when itshould be, so the brain does not shut down. Researcher Dr.Robert W. Greene says, “We knew that coffee kept us awake.Now we know why: Coffee and tea are blocking the linkbetween the prolonged neural activity?and increased levelsof adenosine in cells, which is why they prevent us fromgetting drowsy.”

“Neurons in the brain do things?such as talk to each other,process information and coordinate body activities,” saysGreene. “When they do this over a long period of time, moreand more adenosine is released and feeds back onto the cellsto quiet them down. It’s like telling them: ‘You guys haveworked too hard; take it easy, and refresh yourselves.'”When we’re awake for a long time, this causes adenosinelevels to go up, which in turn makes us drowsy.

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