Sleep and Development in Genetically Tractable Model Organisms

Genetics. 2016 May;203(1):21-33. doi: 10.1534/genetics.116.189589.


Sleep is widely recognized as essential, but without a clear singular function. Inadequate sleep impairs cognition, metabolism, immune function, and many other processes. Work in genetic model systems has greatly expanded our understanding of basic sleep neurobiology as well as introduced new concepts for why we sleep. Among these is an idea with its roots in human work nearly 50 years old: sleep in early life is crucial for normal brain maturation. Nearly all known species that sleep do so more while immature, and this increased sleep coincides with a period of exuberant synaptogenesis and massive neural circuit remodeling. Adequate sleep also appears critical for normal neurodevelopmental progression. This article describes recent findings regarding molecular and circuit mechanisms of sleep, with a focus on development and the insights garnered from models amenable to detailed genetic analyses.

Keywords: Caenorhabditis elegans; Danio rerio; Drosophila melanogaster; development; invertebrate sleep; ontogeny; sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Growth and Development / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Models, Animal
  • Mutation
  • Neurogenesis / genetics
  • Sleep / genetics*
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / metabolism
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology