A bird’s-eye view of the function of sleep

Niels C. Rattenborg, Charles J. Amlaner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Sleep has been detected in every animal that has been adequately studied (Cirelli & Tononi, 2008). The ubiquitous nature of sleep suggests that it evolved early in the course of evolution and therefore may serve a conserved function essential to all animals. This hypothesis forms the rationale behind the development of “simple” animal models of sleep (Allada & Siegel, 2008; Mignot, 2008). By studying sleep in animals such as the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster), where the power of genetic techniques can be readily employed, we may gain insight into the initial (perhaps cellular) function of sleep, a function that may still be relevant to understanding sleep in humans. Indeed, recent studies have already demonstrated remarkable similarities between sleep in Drosophila and sleep in mammals (Hendricks, Finn, Panckeri, et al., 2000; Shaw, Cirelli, Greenspan, et al., 2000; reviewed in Cirelli & Bushey, 2008). Although the utility of studying sleep in “simple” animal models is undeniable, it is unlikely that this approach alone will tell the whole story, especially given that Drosophila do not exhibit brain states comparable to mammalian slow-wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep (Cirelli, 2006; Cirelli & Bushey, 2008; Hendricks & Sehgal, 2004; Nitz, van Swinderen, Tononi, et al., 2002). Indeed, the heterogeneous nature of mammalian sleep suggests that the specific changes in brain activity that accompany SWS and REM sleep might serve secondarily evolved functions not found in simple animals.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEvolution of Sleep
Subtitle of host publicationPhylogenetic and Functional Perspectives
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9780511642074
ISBN (Print)9780521894975
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2009


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