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Spit Test for Sleepy People Spit Test for Sleepy People

By Steve Robinson

Ever wondered if there was a way to test how drowsy someone was? Well, scientists have recently found a way to monitor sleepiness in people and even flies - by looking at their spit.

The research, lead by scientists in Washington University, Missouri, US, has discovered that the digestive protein amylase - found in the saliva of both flies and humans - is produced in greater quantities when the animal is more tired. Though the protein does not have any influence on sleeping patterns, its heightened presence may allow scientists to develop a test for it. The results of this could then be calibrated to levels of tiredness, and so a test for sleepiness would be born.

Researchers spent months monitoring the sleeping habits of flies. Flies which were given caffeine and kept awake for 9-12 hours increased the number of naps they took by 2-7 times. Concurrently, the flies' amylase levels rose by five times, providing the link the researchers were looking for. Similar results were then found in humans; volunteers showed a similar increase in amylase as they became more tired.

Though more human study is needed, the hope is that scientists can develop a practical test for sleepiness to identify people “at risk from sleepiness-related mishaps," said James Walsh, psychologist at Saint Louis University in Missouri and a past president of the National Sleep Foundation in Washington, D.C.

If all goes to plan, then truck drivers' spit could come in handy for saving lives. I just wouldn't want to be the guy doing the tests.

Find out more about Steve and read his articles here.

Image: Riesma Pawestri

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