Who would have thought the humble fruit fly could have such a big impact on the field of insomnia research?!
Sleep is regulated in 2 ways: the body clock (which keeps us in rhythm with the 24 hour day/night cycle) and the sleep 'homeostat' (which keeps track of how long we're awake and puts us to sleep when we've reached our limit).
As we stay up longer, sleep pressure builds and the sleep switch is activated, sending us to sleep.
The neurons that are activated when the sleep switch 'fires' are the same as those activated when we're put under general anesthetic.
Researchers have now discovered the molecules that activate the sleep switch in fruit flies. It's hoped that this will lead to a similar discovery in humans.
Whether all this leads to a new insomnia cure down the road, the jury is still out. It's interesting and promising research nonetheless.
Source: University of Oxford
Last updated: February 24, 2014