Drosophila melanogaster: an insect model for fundamental studies of sleep

Methods Enzymol. 2005;393:772-93. doi: 10.1016/S0076-6879(05)93041-3.


In 2000, Drosophila melanogaster joined the ranks of vertebrates and invertebrates with a defined behavioral sleep state. The characterization of this sleep state revealed striking similarities to sleep in humans: sleep in flies has both circadian and homeostatic components, it is influenced by sex and age, and it is affected by pharmacological agents such as caffeine and antihistamines. As in mammals, arousal thresholds in flies increase with sleep deprivation. Furthermore, changes in brain electrical activity accompany the change from wake to sleep states. Not only do flies and vertebrates share these behavioral and physiological traits of sleep, but they are likely to share at least some genetic mechanisms underlying the regulation of sleep as well. This article reviews the methods currently used to identify and characterize the Drosophila sleep state. As these methods become more refined and our understanding of Drosophila sleep more detailed, the powerful techniques afforded by this organism are likely to unveil deep insights into the function(s) and regulatory mechanisms of sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Caffeine / pharmacology
  • Circadian Rhythm / drug effects
  • Circadian Rhythm / genetics
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein / physiology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • Genes, Insect
  • Homeostasis
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Microarray Analysis
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Sleep / genetics
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology
  • Wakefulness / physiology


  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein
  • Caffeine