During sleep, animals do not eat, reproduce or forage. Sleeping animals are vulnerable to predation. Yet, the persistence of sleep despite evolutionary pressures, and the deleterious effects of sleep deprivation, indicate that sleep serves a function or functions that cannot easily be bypassed. Recent research demonstrates sleep to be phylogenetically far more pervasive than previously appreciated; it is possible that the very first animals slept. Here, we give an overview of sleep across various species, with the aim of determining its original purpose. Sleep exists in animals without cephalized nervous systems and can be influenced by non-neuronal signals, including those associated with metabolic rhythms. Together, these observations support the notion that sleep serves metabolic functions in neural and non-neural tissues.
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The authors thank A. Rohacek and S. Belfer for comments. R.C.A. is supported by US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency grant D17AP00003; M.S.K. is supported by K08NS090461 (US National Institutes of Health), a Burroughs Wellcome Career Award for Medical Scientists, a March of Dimes Basil O’Connor Scholar Award and a Sloan Research Fellowship; and D.M.R. is supported by R01NS088432 (US National Institutes of Health).
Nature Reviews Neuroscience thanks D. Prober, M. Zimmer and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Anafi, R.C., Kayser, M.S. & Raizen, D.M. Exploring phylogeny to find the function of sleep. Nat Rev Neurosci 20, 109–116 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41583-018-0098-9
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