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Sleep or sex? The battle between the two could be wired into our brains

Research on the common fruit fly suggests they also have the same battle.

The research on fruit flies found that they have specific neural centres dedicated to these competing desires.
The research on fruit flies found that they have specific neural centres dedicated to these competing desires.
Image: Shutterstock/Andrey_Popov

INSECT SCIENTISTS WHO study fruit flies have said that the way males and females decide between having sex and sleeping could be similar to how humans decide.

Researchers from three universities in the US and China have collaborated on the project and found that female fruit flies are more likely to have sex despite being sleepy than their male counterparts.

“An organism can only do one thing at a time,” report author Michael Nitabach told Yale News.

“What we have discovered is a neuronal connection that regulates the interplay between courtship and sleep.”

The research was published yesterday in scientific journal Nature Communications and found that there are particular parts of the fruit fly brain that mediate between the desires for sleep and sex.

Nitabach speculated that humans may have a similar neural centres.

Summarising the research, Bill Hathaway of Yale News explains that: “sleep-deprived males showed little interest in courtship while a lack of shut-eye had no effect on the mating behaviour of females.”

Sexually aroused males got little sleep, while aroused females slept more. The male flies’ behaviour is easily explained as an adaptive behaviour, say the scientists: Falling asleep during sex is not a good way to pass on your genes. But, they wondered, why are females still receptive to male advances when sleepy?

“It could be that females can’t afford to pass up an eligible suitor no matter how tired they are,” Nitabach told the US university.

Read: The number of teenage pregnancies in Ireland has fallen by 64% – but STIs are on the rise >

Read: Two Indonesian men caned in front of jeering crowd for having sex >

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Rónán Duffy

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