The necessity of a good night’s sleep doesn’t need to be evidenced. Anyone who has gone more than 24 hours without sleep knows the implications, and now scientists have discovered the secret that lies within one’s body clock.

Biologists from the University of Manchester published their findings in the journal Nature Cell Biology, where they found out why having a proper night’s sleep is essential to helping us prepare for the day ahead. Our innate body clock is at the crux of our body’s natural aging process, according to researchers. Like a clock hanging from a wall, it is most efficient when oiled and taken care of,  just like our sleep regimen.

To fathom this occurrence we need to turn to our biological makeup. 

Our body is comprised of two components — the extracellular matrix and collagen. The extracellular matrix is what provides structural and biochemical reinforcement to cells. When you envision the extracellular matrix, think connective tissue such as bone, skin, tendon, and cartilage. 

The other half of the body is made up of collagen.

In recent years collagen’s link to the aging process has been propagated in the media, more particularly targeting women. Consuming collagen-infused products has been compared to drinking from the “the fountain of youth.” 

Scientists have, up until this point, believed that collagen is fully developed by the age of 17. But recent findings have unveiled that there are, in fact, two different forms of collagen, composed of fibrils (the rope-like elements woven by cells to form collagen tissue). One fibril form is thicker, while the other set is thin. The thicker fibrils alone remain unchanged after the age of 17. The thinner fibrils, however, are dispensable — exhausted during our daily exertions but replenished at night when we sleep.  

To unravel this data, the researchers conducted a series of tests on mice. They observed mice fibrils using volumetric electron microscopy, monitoring them every four hours over two days. The scientists then tempered with the naturally occurring body clock genes within the mice  — as a result, the thin and thick fibrils were intermixed at random. This compromised the integrity of the thin collagen fibrils. 

The lead author Professor Karl Kadler explains this in Nature Cell Biology:

 “Collagen provides the body with structure and is our most abundant protein, ensuring the integrity, elasticity, and strength of the body’s connective tissue. It’s intuitive to think our matrix should be worn down by wear and tear, but it isn’t and now we know why: our body clock makes an element which is sacrificial and can be replenished, protecting the permanent parts of the matrix…if you imagine the bricks in the walls of a room as the permanent part, the paint on the walls could be seen as the sacrificial part which needs to be replenished every so often….And just like you need to oil a car and keep its radiator topped up with water, these thin fibrils help maintain the body’s matrix.”

“Knowing this could have implications on understanding our biology at its most fundamental level. It might, for example, give us some deeper insight into how wounds heal, or how we age,” said Professor Kadler. 

While the research still needs to be further examined, it sheds some compelling insight into the friable nature of our internal clock. If aging (and all its unfortunate physical setbacks) can indeed be prorogued by a proper sleep schedule, it couldn’t hurt to fit some extra Zs in your life.

Originally published on Ladders.

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