Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Sleep is essential for many aspects of normal life, but how we actually fall asleep remains a mystery.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Researchers have now shown how specialist nerve cells in the brains of fruit flies trigger several key steps of falling asleep.

The team at Oxford University’s Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour worked with a small cluster of neurons that had previously been shown to put flies to sleep when activated. When the flies are awake the sleep-control neurons are turned off. The longer the flies are awake, the more tired they become, which eventually reaches a tipping point and activates the neurons.

But the fact that the sleep-inducing neurons are only a tiny minority of all nerve cells posed a puzzle. Sleep entails some of the most profound and widespread changes our brains experience on a daily basis. How could so few cells control so much?

Find out more (University of Oxford website)

Similar stories

No limit to the benefits of exercise in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease

General Research

A new study led by the University of Oxford on over 90,000 participants shows that there is no upper threshold to the benefits of exercise in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease – ‘every move counts towards better cardiovascular health.’

Accurate predictions of ovarian cancer outcome possible with new classification system

General Research

The new, Oxford-developed method for subtyping ovarian cancer has been validated in a recent collaboration between the University of Oxford and Imperial College London. Dubbed the ‘Oxford Classic’, researchers have demonstrated that it enables the accurate prediction of patient disease outcome, as well as the development of new targeted cancer therapies.

Accidental awareness in obstetric surgery under general anaesthesia more frequent than expected

General Research

The largest ever study of awareness during obstetric general anaesthesia shows around 1 in 250 women may be affected, and some may experience long-term psychological harm.