Plants Have "Bedtimes" Just Like Humans, According to New Research

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Those eight hours of sleep we aim to get each night is what helps us wake up with the energy we need to get through each day. As it turns out, plants do the same thing. According to new research published in the PNAS journal, a team of scientists discovered that plants give themselves a strict nighttime routine so they have enough energy to last throughout the night, the Daily Mail reports. Essentially, plants track when the sun rises and sets, formally called circadian rhythm, to know when it is time to start storing their resources.

The researchers reviewed the genes of the arabidopsis flower, which is from the mustard plant species, for the study. They found that, just like humans, these plants have a circadian rhythm that tells them when it's time for sleep, and they have a metabolic signal that lets them know when they need to begin getting some rest for the evening.

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"We think this metabolic signal is acting rather like setting an alarm clock before bedtime to ensure the plant's survival," Dr. Mike Haydon, from the University of Melbourne, said. "Plants must coordinate photosynthetic metabolism with the daily environment and adapt rhythmic physiology and development to match carbon availability."

Professor Ian Graham, from the University of York, also noted that the chemical compound superoxide, which is a molecule that controls metabolic activity, plays an important role in how plants store their energy. "Distinguishing the effects of light and sugars in photosynthetic cells is challenging," he said. "Our data suggest a new role for superoxide as a rhythmic sugar-related signal which acts in the evening and affects circadian gene expression and growth."