Sleep is vital to our health and survival as mammals. The quality of sleep you get can determine your functionality, physical health, mental health, and your overall quality of life. It even regulates healthy brain function and emotional well-being, which is why losing sleep can be so detrimental to one’s health. With this simple process being so crucial to life, it’s a wonder why so many of us can’t think of a single moment where we saw insects sleeping. Is this because they don’t sleep? Biologist, Barrett Klein of the University of Wisconsin answers this query by stating, “yes – with an asterisk.” So, what does that mean and why don’t we see sleeping insects.
Sleep or a Sleep-like State?
When humans sleep, we move into a laying position and close our eyes, signifying our transition into a resting state. However, unlike mammalian creatures, insects lack a particular physical feature that allows them to close their eyes – eyelids. They also do not have the ability to lay down, however some insects will slump or lower their antennae when they rest. So, insects in restful states do not appear to us to be resembling what we consider sleep although they may be engaging in their own form of deep rest. In a study about fruit flies, it was discovered that they would enter what appears to be a relatively deep resting state. Like clockwork, during a particular time of day, the scientists noticed that the flies would retreat to more secluded areas. Once in these different places, the flies would land and remain relatively still for roughly 2.5 hours, only occasionally twitching their legs or mouth appendages. The team also began engaging with the flies while they were in this state, attempting to gauge their reaction times. Surprisingly, they found that the fruit flies did indeed have a very delayed response to sensory stimuli when they were in this state – suggesting not just a rest period but a form of actual sleep. Upon further exploration into this topic, other teams have found that insects lacking in sleep will respond in a very similar fashion to how humans react when they haven’t been receiving proper rest. After exhibiting the effects of lost sleep, the sleep deprived subjects would even engage in little nap-like rest periods in an attempt to recoup. Furthermore, it was discovered that caffeine even had an effect on both the energy and sleep cycles of the fruit flies – just like with humans!
Along with fruit flies, cockroaches, paper wasps, praying mantises, butterflies, and even bees all engage in insect sleep cycles. Depending on the species in particular you can sometimes recognize their sleep by the way in which they slump, curl up, or even twitch slightly as they rest. At this time, we are still unable to fully examine the activity of insect brains during rest, but research into this is currently underway.
With all of this new information to consider, we hope you enjoy this rather adorable video of a little honeybee sleeping:
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Villazon, L. (no date)Do Insects Sleep?,Science Focus. Available at: https://www.sciencefocus.com/nature/do-insects-sleep/ (Accessed: October 2020).
Borel, B. (2014)Do Insects Sleep?,Popular Science. Available at: https://www.popsci.com/blog-network/our-modern-plagues/do-insects-sleep/ (Accessed: October 2020).
Hadley, D. (2019)Do Insects Sleep?,ThoughtCo. Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/do-insects-sleep-1968410 (Accessed: October 2020).
Langley, L. (no date)Do Bugs Sleep? Why They’re Surprisingly Similar to People,National Geographic. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/05/150516-insects-sleep-animals-science-health-bees/ (Accessed: October 2020).
Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency(2018)The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency (Accessed: October 2020).
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