At this point, everyone knows that restful, restorative sleep is absolutely essential for getting (and maintaining) a healthy, strong physique.

But now we're getting an idea of exactly why sleep matters to your muscles—and as it happens, your muscles might matter for your sleep, too.

In a scientific study, which was done at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, researchers focused on sleep disorders in mice and inadvertently discovered that a certain protein found in muscles (dubbed BMAL1), helps regulate sleep duration and quality. When the mice were sleep deprived, the mice with plenty of BMAL1 in their muscles weren’t as affected as those mice with lower levels of BMAL1. And when the scientists took the protein out of mice muscles completely, those rodents suffered from severely disturbed sleep—they were sleepier and recovered more slowly.

The study authors believe the discovery could lead to treatments that could help people in jobs that demand extended periods of wakefulness—airline pilots, security guards, soldiers,  and medical professionals, for example.

"This finding is completely unexpected and changes the ways we think sleep is controlled," said Joseph S. Takahashi, Ph.D., chairman of neuroscience at UT Southwestern Medical Center. "These studies show that factors in muscles can signal to the brain to influence sleep. If similar pathways exist in people, this would provide new drug targets for the treatment of sleep disorders," he said.

Before that future super-awesome sleep drugs arrives, do yourself a favor and make your nightly respite the best it can be by abstaining from alcohol or caffeine a few hours before bed, keep your room cool and dark, and limit screen time before hitting the sack. Your body, and muscles, will respond with increased vigor.