Socializing May Boost Sleep Needs

Lab Tests Link Social Activity to Greater Sleep Needs in Fruit Flies

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on September 21, 2006
From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 21, 2006 -- Socializing this weekend? You may need more sleep afterwards.

A study in Science shows that social fruit flies sleep more than isolated fruit flies.

Obviously, people are different from fruit flies. But believe it or not, the sleep habits of fruit flies and mammals aren't all that different, according to the researchers.

They included Indrani Ganguly-Fitzgerald, PhD, of The Neurosciences Institute in San Diego.

The researchers let a swarm of fruit flies buzz around a big test tube containing syrup for food at the bottom. They also kept other fruit flies isolated in separate test tubes.

The scientists tracked the fruit flies' sleep time. They found that the flies in the social swarm slept more than solo flies fluttering around their own private test tubes.

The swarms ranged in size from four to 100 flies. The bigger the swarm, the more the flies slept.

Were some flies just naturally sleepier than others? Probably not.

The researchers switched some flies from the social swarm with those that had been isolated.

The solo flies weren't wallflowers; they dove right into the social mix and started sleeping more. The opposite was also true: When social flies were isolated, their sleep time nosedived.

Why were social fruit flies sleepier than solo fruit flies? Were they just buzzing around, having a good time and wearing themselves out?

Maybe not. Socializing is a more intense, complex experience that being alone, according to the researchers. They suggest that the brain needs more sleep to process social stimuli.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Ganguly-Fitzgerald, I. Science, Sept. 22, 2006; vol 313: pp 1775-1781. News release, Science.
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