Sleep has many important biological functions, but how sleep is regulated remains poorly understood. In humans, social isolation and other stressors early in life can disrupt adult sleep. In fruit flies housed at different population densities during early adulthood, social enrichment was shown to increase subsequent sleep, but it is unknown if population density during early development can also influence adult sleep. To answer this question, we maintained Drosophila
larvae at a range of population densities throughout larval development, kept them isolated during early adulthood, and then tested their sleep patterns. Our findings reveal that flies that had been isolated as larvae had more fragmented sleep than those that had been raised at higher population densities. This effect was more prominent in females than in males. Larval population density did not affect sleep in female flies that were mutant for amnesiac
, which has been shown to be required for normal memory consolidation, adult sleep regulation, and brain development. In contrast, larval population density effects on sleep persisted in female flies lacking the olfactory receptor or83b
, suggesting that olfactory signals are not required for the effects of larval population density on adult sleep. These findings show that population density during early development can alter sleep behavior in adulthood, suggesting that genetic and/or structural changes are induced by this developmental manipulation that persist through metamorphosis.