Sleeping soundly is all to do with genes

10 April 2017

New research suggests your sleeping ability is all to do with your genes.

Do you fall asleep as soon as your head touches the pillow, or are you one of those people who can toss and turn all night, never feeling like you’ve had a great night’s slumber?

Whichever category you fall into, new research suggests your sleeping ability is all to do with your genes.

In a study led by Dr Jason Gerstner, an assistant research professor at Washington State University, a team of experts looked at genes that change expression over the sleep-wake cycle.

Read more: How lack of sleep could be making you gain weight

The conducted tests and analysis on three groups; mice, humans and fruit flies, concentrating on a gene called FABP7 in mice, and a variant of the gene in humans. It was found that the FABP7 gene in mice changed over the day throughout the animal’s brain, and when intact it tended to let mice sleep better than those with an inactive version.

Ultimately in all three groups, it was found that those without a properly functioning or a mutated FABP7, or variant gene, slept more fitfully.

“It's the first time we've really gained insight into a particular cell's and molecular pathway's role in complex behaviour across such diverse species,” said Dr Gerstner.

In a separate sleep study, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, found that despite what some experts believe, middle-aged people do not need less sleep than the young.

Read more: This could be why your kids aren’t getting a good night’s sleep

It was thought that older people could function better than the younger generation on less sleep as they appear less exhausted if they don’t get as much rest. But new evidence suggests that they just adjust to life with fewer hours in bed.

“Sleep changes with ageing, but it doesn't just change with ageing, it can also start to explain ageing itself,” study author Professor Matthew Walker stated.

“There is a debate in the literature as to whether older adults need less sleep, or rather, older adults cannot generate the sleep that they nevertheless need. The evidence seems to favour one side - older adults do not have a reduced sleep need, but instead, an impaired ability to generate sleep. The elderly therefore suffer from an unmet sleep need.”

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