Researchers from Columbia University have published a new study in PLOS Biology reporting the link between lack of sleep in fruit flies and sensitivity to acute oxidative stress, according to Earth.

Oxidative stress is a consequence of excess free radicals in the body, which can damage cells and lead to organ dysfunction. Toxic free radicals – also known as reactive oxygen species – build up in cells from normal metabolism and environmental damage.

In their study, the researchers used a diverse group of short-sleeping Drosophila (fruit fly) mutants. They determined that these insomniac insects all had a sensitivity to acute oxidative stress. This finding matched their suspicions; that if sleep is required for a core function of health, animals that sleep significantly less than usual are likely to share a defect in that core function. If the function of sleep is to defend against oxidative stress, it would make sense that increasing sleep would increase resistance to oxidative stress.