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

New therapeutic targets identified in the treatment of psoriatic arthritis

Researchers identify two inflammatory-driving proteins, osteopontin and CCL2, highly expressed in psoriatic arthritis joints.

Treatment choice for rotator cuff disorders could create efficiency and savings for the NHS

A trial that evaluated the clinical and cost effectiveness of physiotherapy treatments for rotator cuff disorders suggests cost savings can be made while maintaining positive patient outcomes.

Neutrophil molecular wiring revealed: transcriptional blueprint of short-lived cells

Researchers publish the first blueprint of transcriptional factors that control neutrophil-driven inflammation in Nature Immunology.

Daily contact COVID-19 testing for students effective at controlling transmission in schools

A study by the University of Oxford has found that daily testing of secondary school students who were in contact with someone with COVID-19 was just as effective in controlling school transmission as the current 10-day contact isolation policy.

Difficulty hearing speech could be a risk factor for dementia

A new study led by University of Oxford researchers on over 82,000 participants has shown that difficulty hearing spoken conversations is associated with up to 91% increased risk of dementia.