One of the more interesting aspects about the scientific process is that it cannot be based on commonly held or assumed wisdom. This leads to criticism of experiments and, by extension, the entire field of science when researchers test something we all assume we know. For example: calling fruit fly research a waste of government funding because we all know what fruit flies are, dontchaknow?
Which is why it seems strange to research sleep. You know, that thing we all hate when we’re young and elusively seek as we age. But, what’s sleep for, other than to chase bunnies or be Vikings?
The prevailing theory is that animals need sleep to basically recharge the brain. But, then that would mean that brainless animals, like jellyfish, wouldn’t need sleep. Except it turns out that they totally do, you guys.
In what could easily be the plot of an already-cancelled Real Genius TV series (you’re welcome, Netflix), three Caltech students snuck into the jellyfish lab after hours to settle a bet: whether jellyfish sleep. They observed sleep-like behavior in the jellyfish:
1. They didn’t move much at a set time of night.
2. They were slow to react to stimulus in this state.
3. After being kept up all night by squirt torture (welcome to SeriouslyGuys, disappointed porn Googlers), they were clearly out of sorts and needed a deeper sleep the next night.
So, it turns out you don’t need a brain to need sleep. Which means that, while we still don’t know why we sleep, this does explain why certain relatives will be passed out on your couch this Thanksgiving.