Sleepy? Eyeless Mexican cave fish subject of research into Zzzs

Stop yawning and listen up.

Neuroscientists at Florida Atlantic University are studying an eyeless Mexican cave fish to understand how brains could evolve to require very little sleep just like this little creatures.

Think about how much stuff humans could get done if no sleep was ever required?

The researchers from the Boca Raton-based university just published in the Journal of Experimental Biology a study that provides a model for understanding how the brain’s sensory systems modulate sleep.

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Sleep is for suckers. So says the Mexican cave fish, seen here at an aquarium at Florida Atlantic University where researchers hope to learn from them how humans can evolve to need less shut-eye.

“Animals have dramatic differences in sleep with some sleeping as much as 20 hours and others as little as two hours and no one knows why these dramatic differences in sleep exist,” said Alex C. Keene, who helped write the study coming out of FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.

Living in a cave is no picnic, so the cave fish has evolved robust differences in how it feeds. They have evolved to sleep less while gaining enhance sensory systems. Researchers say this suggest that sleep loss is evolutionary and associated with the environmental and metabolic changes.

The cave fish is like Charles Darwin’s Galapagos finches. There are more than 29 different populations and all have evolved individually.

“We were surprised to find that there are multiple independent mechanisms regulating sleep loss in different cave populations,” said James Jaggard, a graduate student at FAU working with Keene.

He said their research shows there appears to many different ways to evolve a brain that sleeps less. “We are going to search to identify these mechanisms,” Jaggard said.

For the study, the researchers recorded the cavefish under infrared light set up in individual tanks. Check the little guys out on this livestream by clicking here.