Menu

Sleep Deprivation Hardly Harms Fruit Flies

Some individuals sleep just minutes a day. And keeping flies awake does not have untoward effects on longevity.

Feb 21, 2019
Kerry Grens

ABOVE: © ISTOCK.COM, ENTWICKLUNGSKNECHT

Like any other animal, Drosophila sleeps. But some individual flies hardly rest at all, according to a study published yesterday (February 20) in Science Advances. And results from a sleep deprivation experiment show that, in contrast to the devastating effects seen among other animals when they are kept awake, fruit flies handle it pretty well.

“[W]e report two surprising findings . . . challenging the notion that sleep is a vital necessity: the discovery of virtually sleepless flies and the finding that chronic sleep restriction in Drosophila melanogaster has notably less pronounced effects on longevity than previously thought,” the authors write in their paper.

For one part of the project, the researchers videotaped fruit flies behaving in the lab for four days and had a machine-learning program calculate the time the flies were moving or were still, presumably asleep. Typically, the flies slept several hours, but there was great variation among individuals, with some consistently sleeping only a few minutes each day. “[F]lies (and, in fact, animals) sleeping as little as few minutes a day were never identified before,” the authors write.

To see how flies would fare if they were forced to stay awake, the researchers rigged a tube so that it would spin if the fly settled down, thereby flipping it over and nudging it awake. This went on for the duration of the flies’ lives. Again, surprising results: sleep-deprived males lived just as long as unperturbed males, while sleep-deprived females lived slightly shorter lives, 37.5 days on average compared with 41 days among female flies allowed to sleep.

In prior sleep-deprivation studies in other species, the disturbance typically led to early death.

“It’s not that there are no consequences to not sleeping—in fact we will be investigating the effects on mental performance in flies in future experiments—but our study has made us question whether sleep deprivation alone causes death,” says coauthor Giorgio Gilestro of Imperial College London in a press release.

See “Go to Bed!

According to The New York Times, the study questions the universality of the need to sleep, although the research has its limitations. For one, the experimenters only tested one strain of Drosophila. And Amita Sehgal, a sleep researcher at the University of Pennsylvania who was not involved in the study, questions whether the flies’ micromovements that had been tallied as waking periods may have in fact represented sleep, although the authors are convinced they were not waking behaviors.

March 2019

Going Under

Dissecting the effects of anesthetics

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

The Complex Biology of Macrophages: Origins, Functions, and Activation States
The Complex Biology of Macrophages: Origins, Functions, and Activation States
Download this poster from R&D Systems for a detailed overview of macrophage markers, functions, development, specialization, and activation!
A Guide to Measuring Drug-Target Residence Times with Biochemical Assays
A Guide to Measuring Drug-Target Residence Times with Biochemical Assays
Download this guide from BellBrook Labs to learn about how to use Transcreener® biochemical assays to measure drug-target residence times, complete with examples and case studies!
Beckman Coulter Life Sciences To Launch New Product Via Live Stream Event
Beckman Coulter Life Sciences To Launch New Product Via Live Stream Event
After visiting labs around the world to identify ways to advance its industry-leading cell counting technology, Beckman Coulter Life Sciences will host a live streaming event on March 26 at 10 a.m. EDT / 7 a.m. PDT to announce its latest product innovation.  
Cybrexa Therapeutics to Present First Data and Unveil Details for its alphalex™-PARP Inhibitor Lead Candidate CBX-11 at AACR Annual Meeting 2019
Cybrexa Therapeutics to Present First Data and Unveil Details for its alphalex™-PARP Inhibitor Lead Candidate CBX-11 at AACR Annual Meeting 2019
Cybrexa Therapeutics, a biotechnology company developing a new class of cancer therapeutics through its alphalex™ tumor targeting platform, today announced that Vishwas Paralkar, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer of Cybrexa, will present the first set of preclinical data supporting its alphalex™-PARP inhibitor lead candidate, CBX-11, at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2019, being held March 29 – April 3 in Atlanta, Georgia. At the meeting, the Company will unveil the FDA-approved poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) inhibitor conjugated in CBX-11.