Most sleep does not serve a vital function: Evidence from Drosophila melanogaster

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Science Advances  20 Feb 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 2, eaau9253
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau9253


Sleep appears to be a universally conserved phenomenon among the animal kingdom, but whether this notable evolutionary conservation underlies a basic vital function is still an open question. Using a machine learning–based video-tracking technology, we conducted a detailed high-throughput analysis of sleep in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, coupled with a lifelong chronic and specific sleep restriction. Our results show that some wild-type flies are virtually sleepless in baseline conditions and that complete, forced sleep restriction is not necessarily a lethal treatment in wild-type D. melanogaster. We also show that circadian drive, and not homeostatic regulation, is the main contributor to sleep pressure in flies. These results offer a new perspective on the biological role of sleep in Drosophila and, potentially, in other species.

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