Your Genes May Determine How Long and How Well You Sleep

  • Posted: March 14, 2011 
  • Filed under: Articles

By Dr. Lisa Shives
A new study published in the journal Neurology found that individual differences in the way people fall asleep, stay asleep, and deal with insomnia can be predicted by looking for an allele called DBQ1*0602, according to CBS News.

Results of the study led authors to believe that up to 25 percent of people in the world are positive for this gene, which is also an indicator of Narcolepsy. The gene causes insomnia like symptoms, including daytime sleepiness and difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep at night.

Those who do not have the gene typically fall asleep quickly and are able to obtain high quality sleep.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) posted on their “Sleep Better Blog” that another study, published in the Journal Sleep reported the discovery of the first gene involved in the regulation of human sleep. The gene, which is a rare mutation in the “DEC2” gene, allows some people to function well after only six hours of sleep per night.

People with this mutation are able to function without impairment on what is typically considered to be an inadequate amount of sleep.

USA Today reported that this gene was found in less than three percent of people.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates from  data collected from 2004 to 2006 that  about 21 percent of U.S. adults usually sleep for only six hours in a 24-hour period; about eight percent reported sleeping less than six hours.

In 2009, the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America poll found that one-third of Americans are losing sleep over the state of the U.S. economy and other personal financial concerns.

According to Sleep experts, most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep per night in order to function at their highest level.

The AASM claims that even one night of sleep deprivation is associated with consequences such as daytime sleepiness, increases in errors and decreases in attention span and reaction time. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to serious health problems, including increased risk for weight gain, diabetes, stroke and heart attack.

Lifestyle changes, such as keeping a regular schedule, sleeping in a cool, dark room and refraining from drinking alcohol at night may improve quality of sleep. You should contact a sleep expert if sleep problems continue for more than a month.

Dr. Shives works with to provide a medical view of sleep issues. She is one of only a few practitioners with a fellowship in Sleep Medicine in addition to board certification by both the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Sleep Medicine.

Learn more about Dr. Lisa Shives by clicking here.