The social evolution of sleep: sex differences, intragenomic conflicts and clinical pathologies

Goncalo Faria, Susana Varela, Andy Gardner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Sleep appears to be essential for most animals, including humans. Accordingly, individuals who sacrifice sleep are expected to incur costs and so should only be evolutionarily favoured to do this when these costs are offset by other benefits. For instance, a social group might benefit from having some level of wakefulness during the sleeping period if this guards against possible threats. Alternatively, individuals might sacrifice sleep in order to gain an advantage over mate competitors. Here, we perform a theoretical analysis of the social evolutionary pressures that drive investment into sleep versus wakefulness. Specifically, we: investigate how relatedness between social partners may modulate sleeping strategies, depending upon whether sleep sacrifice is selfish or altruistic; determine the conditions under which the sexes are favoured to adopt different sleeping strategies; identify the potential for intragenomic conflict between maternal-origin versus paternal-origin genes regarding an individual's sleeping behaviour; translate this conflict into novel and readily testable predictions concerning patterns of gene expression; and explore the concomitant effects of different kinds of mutations, epimutations, and uniparental disomies in relation to sleep disorders and other clinical pathologies. Our aim is to provide a theoretical framework for future empirical data and stimulate further research on this neglected topic.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20182188
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1894
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019


  • Inclusive fitness
  • Intragenomic conflict
  • Genomic imprinting
  • Kin selection
  • Sexual selection
  • Sleep disorders


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