Is Our Sleep Pattern Genetic?
Two different studies published last week have shed light on how a person’s genetics might affect their sleep patterns and could suggest new ways of influencing our sleep regulation.
The first paper, published on Wednesday in Science Advances, focuses on how the FABP7 gene affects quality of sleep in humans, mice, and transgenic flies. The human aspect of the study followed the sleep patterns of 300 Japanese men, 29 of whom carried mutations within the FABP7 gene which impacted its function. These 29 participants were found to have much more fragmented sleep and were disturbed easily. These results were then corroborated using FABP7-deficient mice and transgenic flies that expressed the FABP7.T61M mis-sense mutation.
The second study was led by researchers at Rockefeller University and was published on Thursday in Cell. This research focused on delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD), a condition more generally known as ‘night owl behaviour’, where a person is more likely to go to sleep late and struggle to rise early. The study was able to demonstrate that people with the disorder possessed a gain-of-function mutation within the CRY1 gene that inhibited circadian activator proteins Clock and Bmal1, slowing their internal clocks.
“Carriers of the mutation have longer days than the planet gives them, so they are essentially playing catch-up for their entire lives,” said Alina Patke, first author of the Cell paper.
Currently, our understanding of why we need sleep and how we regulate it is still quite poor. Research like these two studies are important advances towards being able to successfully treat sleep related conditions, such as DSPD, which can increase the risk of a multitude of other conditions including Alzheimer’s and diabetes.