Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. 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

COVID-19 increased public trust in science, new survey shows

A survey of over 2000 British adults has found that public trust in science, particularly genetics, increased significantly during the pandemic. However, those with extremely negative attitudes towards science tend to have high self-belief in their own understanding despite low textbook knowledge.

Major funding for Oxford will help find new cancer treatments

Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health and Care Research are investing over £3 million across the next five years into The University of Oxford’s Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC). The investment will enable Oxford to expand its portfolio of precision prevention and early detection cancer trials.

New study reveals role of lymphatic system in bone healing

It was previously assumed that bones lacked lymphatic vessels, but new research from the MRC Human Immunology Unit at Oxford's MRC Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine not only locates them within bone tissue, but demonstrates their role in bone and blood cell regeneration and reveals changes associated with aging.

Vaccination shown to protect against pregnancy complications from COVID-19 Omicron variant

The global network led by the Oxford Maternal and Perinatal Health Institute (OMPHI) at the University of Oxford has today published, in The Lancet, the results of the ‘2022 INTERCOVID Study’ conducted in 41 hospitals across 18 countries.

Molnupiravir doesn't reduce COVID-19 hospitalisations in high-risk vaccinated people

Researchers from the University of Oxford released findings from a clinical trial investigating the effectiveness of the antiviral treatment molnupiravir against COVID-19 – the first treatment tested in the ongoing PANORAMIC trial. In their paper published in The Lancet, they reported that molnupiravir did not reduce hospitalisations or deaths among higher risk, vaccinated adults with COVID-19 in the community.

Scientists find genetic ‘marker’ linked to serious side-effects from skin cancer treatment

New research from the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine has identified a genetic marker that could be used to predict a patient’s risk of developing serious side-effects when undergoing immunotherapy treatment for metastatic melanoma.