We spend approximately a third of our lives asleep: that’s roughly twenty-five years we could spend awake and running around being productive, and yet evolution has guided us to spend hours every night in our most vulnerable state – unconscious and unaware. It’s an easy question to ask: what’s the point? 

Any animal with a brain sleeps. Some sleep more than others, but surprisingly, the amount of sleep they need is not related to their body size or brain size. We talk to Associate Professor Bruno van Swinderen about how studying animal sleep can help us learn about the human brain's need for sleep.

Credit: A/Prof Bruno van Swinderen

Associate Professor Bruno van Swinderen's team at UQ's Queensland Brain Institute are studying fruit flies to further understand which genes are important for regulating sleep, why we sleep, what triggers sleep, and what causes sleep disorders. They are also investigating the roles that different stages of sleep have in how the brain functions. These insights may also help us understand the mechanisms that support consciousness.

Animal sleep diagram


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The BRAIN Nature of Discovery magazine