Insights from flies challenge traditional notions, reports Matthew Brady
The complaint ‘I need my sleep’ may have become a thing of the past with the release of some new research from Imperial College. In a paper entitled Most sleep does not serve vital function: Evidence from Drosophila melanogaster in the scientific journal Science Advances, researchers deprived flies of sleep. Using motion detection software calibrated using over 4000 days of fly activity, flies micromovements were monitored. If, after a 20 second period, no micromovement is detected, the fly’s test-tube was shaken for one second – preventing it from getting any significant rest. What was the effect of this on flies’ survival? The results were surprisingly gender skewed, with no statistically significant impact on lifespan for male flies but a reduction in median lifespan for female files of 3.5 days. Similarly, in the control group, no relationship was observed between amount of sleep and lifespan. Why is this the case? The question remains unanswered, but it is suggested that either the flies were getting minute periods of sleep allowing them to operate in their limited lab environment, or that sleep is less necessary for vital functions than we had once thought: perhaps going from out on a Sunday night straight to our 9am lecture on Monday isn’t so bad.
Image: Hannah Davis