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Renowned inventor Thomas Edison famously slept for only three or four hours a night. Maybe this was all his body needed due to his genetics?
Researchers at UCSF discovered in 2009 that some people can feel rested after less than 6.5 hours of sleep due to a gene mutation. Now, 10 years later, the scientists have isolated a second “short sleep gene,” and the leader of the study, UCSF Professor Ying-Hui Fu, says several others are being examined by the research team.
“Before we identified the first short-sleep gene, people really weren’t thinking about sleep duration in genetic terms,” says Fu, a professor of neurology. With the latest research, the role of genetics is becoming increasingly clear, she says.
In 2009, Fu’s team conducted a study finding people with a gene mutation called DEC2 averaged only 6.25 hours of sleep per night and felt rested. Study participants without the mutation averaged 8.06 hours.
In the latest study, researchers focused on a family with three successive generations of natural short-sleepers. None of them had the DEC2 mutation, but scientists were able to isolate another mutation called ADRB1 that’s also associated with natural short sleep.
People with the gene mutations don’t suffer any of the negative health effects associated with sleep deprivation. Instead, Fu says they tend to be more energetic and more flexible sleepers, meaning they can feel rested even when their sleep schedules change.
“Today, most people are chronically sleep deprived. If you need eight to nine hours, but only sleep seven, you’re sleep deprived,” Fu said in a statement. “This has well-known, long-term health consequences. You’re more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, metabolic problems and a weakened immune system.”
While more and more sleep genes are identified, Fu says the mutation is likely extremely rare.
“I think for lot of people who don’t get a lot of sleep, it’s just will power,” Fu says. “I think a lot of people claim they don’t need a lot of sleep, but they’re not genuine short-sleepers.”
There aren’t any plans at this point to determine the rate of occurrence of the gene mutation in people, but instead Fu says they’ll use their finding to better understand how to help people who struggle with sleep.
“For me, the goal is to figure out how sleep is regulated and make sleep more efficient,” Fu says. “If we can help everyone sleep better, then everyone will be healthier and age better. The goal is not to find out how many people have this mutation, but to learn how the bodies of the people with the mutation work.”
Amy Graff is a digital reporter for SFGATE. Email her firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/UCSF-researchers-find-gene-mutation-short-sleep-14395463.php.