Sleep theory: noradrenaline

I’m still looking for a sensible theory to account for my weird sleep pattern of insomnia after the 5h non-REM sleep part of the night.

At the moment I’m looking into the excitatory neurotransmitters because I found out the disposal system of these is a bit crooked in me. The enzyme responsible of breaking down (nor)adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin is called MAO A and I have an allele combination that makes it do its work veeeeeery slowly. Making me an upbeat, cheerful person by nature. Going into manic chattering when excited too much:

I found some tidbits I’m going to connect without knowing what I do.

LAST NIGHT
I woke up after 5 hours of sleep. I lay there with my eyes closed, observing, and noticed that although my brain was ON my body was not. My body was heavy, warm, sleepy.
I tried to not get my brain any more excited than it already was (no lights on, no surfing, no worrying, no thinking up clever schemes, no planning). I did resolve to investigate another angle to this insomnia when properly awake: what if it’s not cortisol keeping me awake but something that’s only active in the brain?
Cortisol travels through the blood and should have effect all over the body. Maybe one of the excitatory neurotransmitters keeps its actions restricted to the brain?

NORADRENALINE IN THE BRAIN
Noradrenaline is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter. It’s made in the adrenals (not the same part that makes cortisol though) and released in the blood = hormone. And it’s made in the brain (in sections called Locus Coeruleus, in the brain stem) = neurotransmitter.
As a neurotransmitter it’s active in the central nervous system and sympathetic nervous system. As such it fires up the sympathetic nervous system, elbowing the parasympathetic system into submission.
The actions of norepinephrine are carried out via the binding to adrenergic receptors.

Locus Coeruleus, noradrenaline HQ

Wiki says: “Noradrenergic neurons project bilaterally (send signals to both sides of the brain) from the locus ceruleus along distinct pathways to many locations, including the cerebral cortex, limbic system, and the spinal cord, forming a neurotransmitter system.”
Does it say here that there’s a distinctive network in the brain for this neurotransmitter? Is there a web bringing it’s activity fast and furious into all parts of the brain?
yes it does

This network can be tested. Increase in activity can be measured. Data can be found!
They think this network is involved in decision making and in storing memories. There’s research on it (using rats I believe).

BUILDING NORADRENALINE AND USING IT TO BUILD OTHER STUFF
Noradrenaline (or norepinephrine) is synthesized in 3 steps:

  1. the aminoacid Tyrosine is hydroxylated into L-DOPA (by enzyme/gen Tyrosine Hydroxylase)
  2. L-DOPA is decarboxylated into Dopamine
  3. Dopamine is hydroxylated into Noradrenaline

Wiki: “Noradrenaline is the hormone and neurotransmitter most responsible for vigilant concentration in contrast to its most chemically similar hormone, dopamine, most responsible for cognitive alertness.[4]”

check. check. This is what I have in abundance, especially at night. This is also what places me on the other end of the spectrum from people with ADD, I believe. I wish we could barter and both end up in the middle.

 

 pic by Paul Turnbull

There’s a fourth step when fiddling with noradrenaline:

4. Noradrenaline is made into Adrenaline via methylation of its amino group.

It takes methylation to get rid of noradrenaline! Does this get hindered by the same dna-oopsies I have hindering the Methylation Cycle? This would account for huge amounts of noradrenaline lingering in the system, firing up the brain.

Although: would I want to trade noradrenaline for adrenaline in the middle of the night? I don’t think so.

GETTING RID OF NORADRENALINE
Here’s the wiki link on how it is terminated or degraded. Need to read it myself and use its terms to dig through scientific papers.

On first scan I see I shouldn’t take cocaine since it inhibits uptake of noradrenaline. That’s good to know, I’ll inform my dealer.

What facilitates degradation in mammals? What is the usual half time?

“α-Methyltyrosine is a substance that intervenes in norepinephrine synthesis by substituting tyrosine for tyrosine hydroxylase, and blocking this enzyme.”
what’s this? can I buy this? cook it up myself?

“Vesicular transport modulators[edit]
This transportation can be inhibited by reserpine and tetrabenazine.[33]”
are these drugs?

A few inhibitors to the release of noradrenaline are named. And a few that stimulate it. Adrenaline causes noradrenaline. Stay away from stress, children.
This does explain a lot of my own experiences.

Tyrosine is found in eggs, nuts, meat and cheese. And we make it ourselves from Phenylalanine.
Cutting down on any of these food stuffs won’t do much good as the body choses how much it converts. It’s not particularly dependent on intake. Unless you really stop eating these as hard core veganists do. And they might well be happier and more zen because of it too.

 pic by Penny Mathews

 

NORADRENALINE AND SLEEP

They suspect that the network of noradrenaline in the brain is used to store memories.
They also found that in the nonREMsleep this network’s activity coincides with the waves that are visible on EEG. When the wave goes up, so does the activity in the noradrenaline network. When the wave goes down, so does the firing frequency. They suspect this is how mammals store memories during sleep.
Here’s the link to the study (rats).

To me it says that during nonREMsleep the system pulsates, in the same slow way as the sleep waves do. I expect this to change once the sleep waves change. I.e. when the sleep cycle changes so does the activity of the neuron network. I need to go look for studies that tell me wether its activity increases or decreases.
Based on my insomnia I expect it to increase. Leaving me with a surplus of noradrenaline bouncing around my head.

If I can pinpoint why it stays active I can experiment. Or I can start experimenting and use the outcomes to focus the theory better.
It might be that methylation into adrenaline doesn’t work properly or that the MAO A clean up crew is working with two hands tied behind its back. Or the degrading system doesn’t work very well. I’m going to investigate further the subjects I touched upon above.

Or I might figure out why the surplus noradrenaline becomes active in the first place. If I can decrease its release (by taking away the cause or by taking surpressing drugs) I might sleep through the night. It would illustrate that it’s indeed noradrenaline waking me up and keeping me awake.

Well, I’m still just theorizing here. But in theory it all makes sense and it all coincides with my own symptoms and data.

If this becomes a credible, logical train of thought I plan to test it out. (no idea how to test, yet)
At night I want to sleep, from nonREM to REM. So I can wake up and be cheerful all day.

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