Eat, Sleep, Repeat

By Alice Orszulok

In an effort to understand how sleep, hunger and metabolism interact, scientists activated a molecule in flies that made them do nothing but snooze and eat.

Hunger and sleep work together in a weird way: if you go to bed hungry, you may find it more difficult to go to sleep, especially if you’re thinking about burgers and other delicious foods. In the same way, after eating a big meal you may find yourself in a food coma, which will make you drowsy. But by studying a single molecule in fruit flies (Drosophila), scientists have been able to unravel this complicated relationship.

The researchers found that the neuropeptide sNPF, which partly controls the amount of food you eat and your metabolism, is also largely responsible for making you sleepy. They discovered this after they activated sNPF in fruit flies and watched them fall asleep almost immediately. When the flies did wake up, they stayed conscious only long enough to eat before falling back to sleep again for days at a time. The flies even slept on the food source they were eating from, making it very convenient to wake up, take a few bites, and fall back to sleep again, all without even getting up to move about.

When the researchers returned sNPF functions back to normal, the flies returned to their usual level of activity, no longer being restricted to the repetitive tasks of only sleeping and eating.

“This paper provides a nice bridge between feeding behaviour and sleep behaviour with just a single molecule,” Nathan Donelson, one of the study’s lead authors, said in a statement.

This study, the researchers said, is extremely important for understanding human health and overeating, but what’s even more worrying is that when you’re tired, you’re more likely to snack on junk foods, rather than foods that are good for you.

Read more about how sleep deprivation can change your food cravings here.

Source [Science Daily]

Keyword [Neuropeptide]
Neuropeptides are small, protein-like molecules (peptides) found in the brain. They signal the brain to work in a particular way. Neuropeptides are involved in different brain functions, including food intake, metabolism, learning and memory.