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Scientists have uncovered a number of surprising ways that genes might affect your sleep. Here are five:
“Short-sleepers” can get by on just 4 to 6 hours a night
In 2009, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco discovered a gene mutation that allows some people to feel refreshed on much less sleep than the normal population.
The gene is heritable and rare. So for the rest of us, a minimum of 7.5 hours it is.
There’s a gene linked to both seasonal depression and poor sleep
A two-for-one special that no one wants: Two rare variants of the PERIOD3 (PER3) gene are linked to both Seasonal Affective Disorder – depression related to change in the seasons and poor sleeping patterns.
DNA may be why sleep and metabolism are associated
In 2013, scientists identified a “gene region” that’s linked with longer sleep, better glucose metabolism and a lower likelihood of ADHD. The region is located near a gene called PAX8, which helps regulate thyroid hormone levels. The thyroid can impact sleep cycles: People with inadequate thyroid hormones often sleep excessively, and people with too much of it can be hyperactive.
An overactive gene is linked to severe insomnia
The gene known as neuromedin U (Nmu) has been called “nature’s stimulant” for its apparent role in wakefulness and, by extension, insomnia. A new study,published this month in the journal Neuron, showed that zebrafish with over-expressed Nmu became more active both day and night and displayed a “profound form of insomnia.”
Being a “morning person” could be part of your DNA
Scientists recently isolated 15 areas in the human genome that are associated with the tendency toward “morningness,” or a preference for rising early. They also found that morning people were less likely to suffer from insomnia or depression, and had lower average BMIs than so-called “night owls.”