Could You Have A Gene That Makes You Need Less Sleep?
Everyone has that one friend or family member who functions just fine with seemingly no sleep. They're energetic, bubbly, even productive in the morning—and they might have a specific gene to make them that way.
A new study published in the journal Neuron reports that scientists were able to find a specific gene linked to how much someone needs sleep.
During the study, scientists researched certain families' DNA whose members require significantly less sleep than the average person. The gene they found is called ADRB1, and possessing it has allowed these families to need only six hours of sleep rather than the average eight.
To further test this gene, the researchers studied a sample of mice that carried a mutated version of the ADRB1 gene. What they found was that these mice slept around 55 minutes less than mice without the gene. Although humans with that same gene had a tendency to sleep two hours less than people without (rather than 55 minutes), this discrepancy could be a result of the different sleeping patterns of mice and humans, as mice tend to sleep in an on-and-off pattern while humans sleep during a continuous period.
"It's challenging to study sleep in humans, too," Louis Ptáček, co-senior author of the study, counters. "Because sleep is a behavior as well as a function of biology. We drink coffee and stay up late and do other things that go against our natural biological tendencies."
Because we already take these measures to go against our biological tendencies to sleep, this research could have significant effects on developing new substances to further control our sleep. "Sleep is one of the most important things we do," co-senior author Ying-Hui Fu says in a news release. "Not getting enough sleep is linked to an increase in the incidence of many conditions, including cancer, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer's."
If we could somehow determine a way for people to function with less sleep, the results could be astounding for not only these medical conditions but also for our daily working lives. Basically, a cure for the 3 p.m. slump could be in our future.
While this research is preliminary, it will be incredibly interesting to see if certain individuals are genetically predisposed to become morning people. While I can say for certain that I'm definitely not one of those individuals, maybe the potential innovations for sleep and wakefulness could provide a way for my morning grogginess to subside, sans cold brew. Here's hoping!
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