Genetic jackpot!

Several factors determine how much sleep someone needs: age, lifestyle, health, and so on. And now, it seems we can add “genetics” to that list.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco recently came across something interesting while running DNA screenings on blood samples taken from sleep study participants.

In two of the samples, they noticed abnormal copies of a gene called DEC2, which is known to help determine circadian rhythms. They traced the blood samples back to two women, a mother and a daughter, who only require 6 hours of sleep a night… and they don’t have to depend on alarm clocks or stimulants to maintain that short sleep schedule.

To prove that this gene mutation was actually the cause of the shortened sleep cycle, researchers genetically engineered mice and fruit flies with the mutated form of the gene. Studies showed that both types of animals slept less than mice or flies with the typical DEC2 gene.

So what does this mean for everyone else?

Discovering this mutation gives scientists another option when it comes to treating sleep disorders. Should a sleep medicine mimicking the effects of the DEC2 mutation be developed, it could potentially offer relief to insomnia sufferers.