Science 3 min read

Researchers Identify Genetic Causes Of Poor Sleep

In a landmark study, researchers have discovered the specific genes that can be responsible for poor sleep or lack of sleep in certain individuals.

According to new research, it may be your genes that are causing those sleepless nights. ¦ Pixabay

According to new research, it may be your genes that are causing those sleepless nights. ¦ Pixabay

Poor sleep costs the United States economy as much as $411 billion annually.

According to statistics, 35 percent of Americans don’t get the recommended seven hours of sleep per night, and the number jumps to 97 percent when you consider teenagers alone.

The Sleep Health Index reveals that insufficient sleep affects the daily lives of 43 percent of Americans at least once in seven days.

What’s responsible for the poor sleep, you ask?

Past studies have identified different causes of poor sleep. Now, an international collaboration led by the University of Exeter has found a relationship between our genetic code and sleep.

According to their publication in Nature Communication, 47 links exists between our genetic code and the quality, quantity and the timing of sleep. While 26 genetic codes are associated with sleep quality, another ten work with sleep duration.

The Genetic Basis of Poor Sleep

In their study, the researchers combined data from the UK Biobank – containing 85,670 participants – with data from three other previous studies. With a wrist-worn device, the researchers were able to record the levels of activity continuously.

Since the respondents had to wear the device through the duration of the study, the researchers were able to collect more detailed sleep data than previous studies ever produced.

During the study of the genomic regions, the researcher identified an uncommon variant of a gene called PDE11A. According to the researchers, this gene variant not only affects how long you sleep but the quality of sleep too.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Samuel Jones said:

“This study identifies genetic variants influencing sleep traits, and will provide new insights into the molecular role of sleep in humans.”

The Link Between Waist Circumference and Poor Sleep

Aside from identifying the genetic basis of poor sleep, the researchers also discovered a link between waist circumference and sleep time.

The study revealed that among participants with similar hip circumferences, a higher circumference resulted in less sleep time. In other words, participants with big waists generally slept less.

With that said, the effect is minimal. For example, someone with an average hip circumference – about 100 cm –  slept 4 seconds less for every 1 cm increases in waist circumference.

Then the Exeter University researchers extended the study.

They collaborated with other analysts at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts General Hospital. The researchers also involved colleagues from the Netherlands, France, and Switzerland.

Together, they discovered that the genetic region that affects sleep quality is also linked to the production of serotonin. Aside from bringing the feeling of happiness and wellbeing, findings show that serotonin also plays a vital role in the sleep cycle. It promotes a night of deeper and more restful sleep.

Past studies have linked changes in sleep quantity, quality and timing with several human diseases. These include obesity, diabetes, and psychiatric disorders.

With the findings, the researchers hope to develop a new form of treatments to not only improve sleep but our overall health.

Read More: Apple Watch to Finally get Sleep Tracking for 2020 Models

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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