Why Do We Sleep?

Allada to discuss circadian rhythms at next Science Café

May 15, 2017

Humans spend a third of their lives asleep, yet we still don’t know why. Inadequate sleep affects performance, memory, and may even lead to illnesses, such as diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease. Ravi Allada, neurobiology, will discuss his research team's work — and what the humble fruit fly has revealed about humanity's sleep-wake cycles — at the next Science Café.

Fifteen years ago, a mutant fruit fly caught Allada's attention and curiosity. His path of discovery eventually revealed just how the animal’s biological clock wakes it up in the morning and puts it to sleep at night.

Allada has since studied many facets of the circadian clock, even exploring how it might have helped the Chicago Cubs win the World Series. His research team recently discovered that when people (including Major League Baseball players) travel in a way that misaligns their internal 24-hour clock with the natural environment and its cycle of sunlight, they suffer negative consequences.

“Jet lag does impair the performance of Major League Baseball players,” says Allada. “The negative effects of jet lag we found are subtle, but they are detectable and significant. And they happen on both offense and defense and for both home and away teams, often in surprising ways.”

Allada will discuss his pathbreaking research at this month’s Science Café, taking place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on May 17 at the Firehouse Grill, 750 Chicago Ave., in Evanston. Seating is limited.