A new study conducted in December by scientists at the University of Alberta found out that exposure to higher levels of oxygen aid sleep, and particularly encourage the brain to remain in deep and restorative sleep. The study was conducted by administering high levels of oxygen to animals who were either naturally sleeping or anesthetized. Their brain activity was then examined.
One of the scientists who conducted the study, Brandon Hauer, says that oxygen helps the brain to switch out of active sleep, and remain in a slow-wave deep sleep the entire time. Once the oxygen was removed, the brain started cycling again through other stages of sleep. Slow wave sleep is the deepest stage of sleep, and the time when metabolites are cleared from the body, muscles grow, and protein synthesis occurs. Deep sleep is very important for body and brain recovery. It also aids memory consolidation.
When we are exposed to lower levels of oxygen, our brain remains in the active stage of sleep also known as rapid eye movement. Another interesting fact the researchers have found out in their study is that after the brain remains in REM sleep for a long time, the slow wave stage also extends, as if it now tries to catch up with the missed out slow-wave sleep due to extended REM stage. This study is important because it reveals the potential of oxygen therapy for sleep problems.
Scientists believe that oxygen therapy may help individuals with sleep disorders by enhancing their slow-wave sleep. Further testing is required before this becomes a therapeutic reality.