“Feed a cold, starve a fever,” or so the adage goes. But fruit fly experiments suggest that sleep may be a better remedy.

A microbe-fighting protein helps control how much and how deeply fruit flies sleep, researchers report in the Feb. 1 Science. That’s evidence that sleep speeds recovery from illness, they conclude.

“We finally have a very clear link between being sleepy and fighting an infection,” says Caltech sleep researcher Grigorios Oikonomou, who was not involved in the work. Such a link has been hinted at but never formally demonstrated, says Oikonomou, who coauthored a commentary on the study in the same issue of Science.

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