Humans function best on a good night’s sleep – yet we may find ourselves staying awake longer so we can engage in sexual activity. As it happens, male fruit flies behave much the same way: they stay awake when there is a female to court, but opt for sleep after mating multiple times.

Researchers have recently discovered that male fruit flies have a specific type of neurons that’s responsible for suppressing sleep in favor of mating. To suppress sleep, the neurons release a neurotransmitter similar to noradrenaline. If the neurons are stimulated artificially, the male fruit fly will remain awake despite a complete lack of female companionship.

Female fruit flies have the same kind of neurons, but they don’t seem to affect them in the same way.

The lead researcher on the study says, “it is known that noradrenaline promotes wakefulness in humans. Our work suggests that noradrenaline may be especially important for suppressing sleep when we have to engage in other urgent activities.”

You can see an abstract of the study at eLife Sciences.