Saturday, August 15, 2009
Sleep and genes
A new study in the scientific journal Nature reveals that some people actually have a rare genetic mutation that allows them to get less than eight hours of sleep without feeling groggy. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco studied the sleep habits and DNA samples of about 1,000 volunteers, only two of which actually had the mutation. Not coincidentally, the lucky pair was a mother and daughter. According to Ying-hui Fu, a neurologist involved with the study, the mother and daughter typically slept from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., feeling no adverse affects from their minimal six hours of sleep. Recognizing this genetic mutation is vital to the treatment of sleep disorders, which affect some 50-70 million Americans and add up to about $15 billion in medical expenses, according to the National Institutes of Health. Fu and her team also tested this theory with mice and fruit flies, breeding each to develop the DEC2 gene mutation that both the human mother and daughter in the original study exhibited. Just as Fu suspected, the mutant mice did sleep less, and their brain waves while they were awake indicated that they had, indeed, had a sufficient night’s sleep.