Spectrum News: A gene that is poorly expressed in people with certain neurodevelopmental conditions is also essential for sleep, according to a new study in fruit flies.

Many people with autism or other neurodevelopmental conditions have trouble falling asleep and slumbering soundly. This difficulty is often viewed as a side effect of a given condition’s core traits, such as heightened sensory sensitivities and repetitive behaviors in autism.

The new work, though, offers evidence that sleep problems may stem directly from the same genetic changes that underlie these conditions.

“Sleep should be viewed as a core phenotype in these sorts of conditions — it’s not something that’s just emerging from broader problems,” says lead researcher Matthew Kayser, assistant professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.