Neuroscientist Chiara Cirelli uses experimental fruit flies to study sleep. Although it may be tough to imagine a fly snoozing, these rice grain-sized animals sleep about 12 hours every night.
When they sleep, flies are completely still and only loud noises or other disturbances wake them. Like us, a jolt of caffeine keeps them awake.
Also like us, without enough sleep, flies feel the effects of sleep deprivation. Cirelli has shown that they are a good model for researching human sleep. She has found fruit fly genes that seem to have a powerful effect on sleep.
In time, her research could lead to new clues about the causes of sleep disorders and some forms of mental illness.
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Cirelli's research with fruit flies may help answer the question: Why is sleep so important for good health?