What’s eating you?

Many people think of sleep almost as if it were a state of suspended animation, like turning off a computer so that it can cool down. But while your conscious mind and certain activities are dormant, much of your body is hard at work repairing damage, replenishing energy stores, and clearing away waste, in addition to keeping essential autonomic functions going. Your sleeping self requires nearly as much energy as your waking self, but it can’t very well make itself a sandwich… so what is it eating?


A delicious feast of its own tired mitochondria and other aged organelles, proteins that have overstayed their welcome (or were never welcome in the first place) and the occasional uninvited microbial guest is what keeps a cell going during fasting states. This process–called autophagy, or “self-eating”–begins when a membrane engulfs a target inside the cell, then fuses with a hungry lysosome roiling with powerful digestive enzymes. Energy production also doubles as housekeeping, clearing damaged components from the cell before they cause too much trouble. Unsurprisingly, it’s a key component of caloric restriction and intermittent fasting, as well as numerous other life extension paradigms.

what keeps a cell goingcaloric restriction

Unfortunately, most signs indicate that autophagy declines


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