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Sleep Roundup

January 12, 2007

A new test could tell whether someone’s sleepy or alert.


A sleepiness test. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

By studying bleary-eyed fruit flies, scientists at Washington University in St. Louis have found a possible chemical test for sleepiness. The work began by looking at sleep-deprived flies, kept awake with caffeine. The flies had five times more of the chemical amylase in their saliva than well-rested flies. The team then looked at sleep-deprived human volunteers, and found their amylase levels were heightened, too. The research could lead to a spit-test for sleepiness, useful for truckers, forklift operators or surgeons who are working when they should be napping.

In other sleep research, scientists in Germany report that electrically stimulating the brain during certain periods of sleep can help people learn better. The research is in its early stages, though, so it may be some time before we’ll see anything like an electric smart pillow.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.