Is Your Insomnia In Your Head Or Your DNA?

Is Your Insomnia In Your Head Or Your DNA? Hero Image
Photo: Milles Studio

Ever feel like health news is too overwhelming, fast-paced, or hard to decipher? Us too. Here, we filter through the latest in integrative health, wellness trends, and nutrition advice, reporting on the most exciting and meaningful breakthroughs. We’ll tell you exactly what you need to know—and how it might help you become a healthier and happier human.

As one of the most common health complaints in the world today, insomnia has become way more than just an annoying inconvenience. Sleep deprivation can put you at greater risk for heart disease, stroke, and depression and will definitely dampen your immune system. In other words, it's important to get to the bottom of your insomnia—as quickly and effectively as possible.

Historically, insomnia has been thought of as a psychological condition. But now, a study just published in the journal Nature Genetics identifies specific genes and chromosome locations associated with insomnia, meaning there's likely a genetic reason some people have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep throughout their lifetime.

Why your sleep problem is in your DNA.

Researchers at Vrije University in Amsterdam analyzed the genetic material of about 100,000 people and were able to identify seven different genes that could be linked to insomnia and trouble sleeping. What do these genes do, specifically? Well, some of them are known to play a role in specific (and very complex) biological and cellular processes in the body—DNA transcription and exocytosis to be exact—and others have already been linked to other types of sleep disorders like restless legs syndrome. The results also showed that the insomnia genes varied for men and women and overlapped strongly with internalizing personality traits (like anxiety and depression) and were negatively correlated with subjective well-being and educational attainment.

What this really means for insomniacs everywhere.

Because of this study, we now know a lot more about the "genetic architecture of insomnia" and also that insomnia is not a purely psychological condition. In other words: It's not all in your head. Scientists believe this is the start of a new era for sleep research, one that will end with an understanding of exactly what's happening with our brain cells—and the way they communicate with one another—that's preventing sleep. New knowledge like this has the potential to change insomnia treatment strategies from both the neurological and psychological perspective—big news for those who have been struggling to catch adequate zzz's for years.

Did you know that sleep is arguably more important than nutrition, mindfulness, and even exercise?

ADVERTISEMENT


Explore More