Busting the myth, a study has found that after a sleepless night, males may prefer to sleep while sleep deprivation has no affect on mating behaviour of females. The findings indicated that sleep-deprived males showed little interest in courtship while a lack of shut-eye had no effect on the mating behaviour of females.
“An organism can only do one thing at a time,” said corresponding author Michael Nitabach from Yale University in New Haven, US. “What we have discovered is a neuronal connection that regulates the interplay between courtship and sleep,” Nitabach added.
The study was conducted on Drosophila. Nitabach — in collaboration with scientists from Janelia Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Southeast University in China, and University of San Diego — investigated neuronal activity involved in both behaviours.
Sexually aroused males got little sleep, while aroused females slept more. The male flies’ behaviour is easily explained as an adaptive behaviour, say the scientists: Falling asleep during sex is not a good way to pass on your genes. It could be that females cannot afford to pass up an eligible suitor no matter how tired they are, Nitabach stated.
“It appears that whichever behaviour has the highest biological drive suppresses the other behaviour,” he said. In addition to identifying this sex-specific behaviour, the collaborative team also revealed that underlying functional connections between the distinct neural centres that mediate sex and sleep.
The researchers noted that humans could possibly have a similar mechanism for adjudicating when the drives for sleep and sex collide. The results appear in the journal Nature Communications.