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Suffocating in your sleep

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Scary story:
Researchers focused on a brainstem region called the preBotzinger complex (preBotC) which contains specialised neurons that trigger breathing. Rats were injected with a chemical designed to target and kill more than half the preBotC neurons.

The results were dramatic. Breathing stopped completely when the rats entered REM sleep - the mentally active phase of sleep characterised by dreaming - forcing the animals to wake up. Over time, the breathing lapses increased in severity and spread into non-REM, deeper sleep. Eventually they occurred when the rats were awake as well.

The research looks into central sleep apnea (not the more common obstructive sleep apnea treated by CPAP devices). Still, it's a bit frightening to think that "passing away peacefully in his sleep" might more often be "suffocated at night due to loss of brain cells." Yikes.