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March 07, 2014
This is no fly by night study since research on approximately 21,000 fruit flies--yes, you heard it right--may help us sleep better.
Using a device that employs infrared beams to detect when the flies nod off, scientists discovered that mutations in a gene (nicknamed the insomniac gene) were associated with a dramatic reduction in sleep.
While a typical fruit fly sleeps for average of 927 minutes a day, insomniac flies snoozed for just 317.
The work supposedly gives us several new clues about how sleep is controlled at the molecular level, and could prove useful in treating sleep disorders.
What this has to do with human sleep can keep you up all night thinking about it.
Since we appear to desperately need some solutions.
A recent article in Consumer Reports reports that 50% of those asked reported difficulties falling and staying asleep.
(Pre-light bulb America slept about 10 hours each night as opposed to the six or so hours we sleep now.)
Stress, noisy neighbors, family problems, health, small children, money, the 24/7 nature of today's world are the main culprits.
Work started in earnest on sleep in 1913 when French Scientist Henri Pieron wrote a book entitled "Le probleme physiologique du sommeil," which was the first text to examine sleep from a physiological perspective.
Through the ages, everything has been tried to get a decent night's sleep.
Winston Churchill had twin beds and when he couldn't fall asleep in one he changed to the other.
Marcel Proust liked Veronal and Evelyn Waugh used bromides.
Vincent van Gogh smothered his mattress and pillow with camphor to clear his head of all his strange thoughts (and he had them).
Marlene Dietrich ate a sardine and onion sandwich on rye.
They all make as much sense as sleep experts recommending drowning out internal chatter by holding the tip of your tongue towards the roof of your mouth without actually touching it until the chatter stops.
Or wiggling your toes to help the body relax.
All the more reasons we can only hope the fruit fly research bears fruit.
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