No one should have to sleep with the fishes, but new research on zebrafish suggests that we sleep like them.
Sleeping zebrafish have brain activity similar to both deep slow-wave sleep and rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep that’s found in mammals, researchers report July 10 in Nature. And the team may have tracked down the cells that kick off REM sleep.
The findings suggest that the basics of sleep evolved at least 450 million years ago in zebrafish ancestors, before the evolution of animals that give birth to live young instead of laying eggs. That’s 150 million years earlier than scientists thought when they discovered that lizards sleep like mammals and birds (SN: 5/28/16, p. 9).
What’s more, sleep may have evolved underwater, says Louis C. Leung, a neuroscientist at Stanford University School of Medicine. “These signatures [of sleep] really have important functions — even though we may not know what they are — that have survived hundreds of millions of years of evolution.”
With their brain-activity monitoring, the researchers have taken sleep research “to the next level,” says [sleep researcher Allan] Pack, and “they present pretty compelling evidence” of slow-wave and REM-like sleep in the fish.
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