A process in the brain responsible for muscle inactivity has been identified by new research.
The study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, has for the first time pinpointed the mechanism responsible for constraining important breathing muscles, such as the tongue.
The inactivity of these muscles can cause snoring and other sleep problems, such as sleep apnoea.
The researchers studied rats when they were asleep and awake and examined parts of the brain responsible for the breathing muscles.
The results of the study could be used to help researchers develop new treatments for sleep apnoea, which target this area of the brain. Lead researcher, Dr Richard Horner, said: “Identifying the fundamental mechanism responsible for the shutting down of a muscle in sleep that is critical for effective breathing also identifies a rational drug target designed to prevent this inactivity and so prevent obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep-related breathing problems.”