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Posts Tagged ‘“How much sleep do I need?”’

dna The New York Times (8/14, A11, Parker-Pope) reports that scientists at the University of California-San Francisco “have found a genetic mutation in two people who need far less sleep than average, a discovery that might open the door to understanding human sleep patterns and lead to treatments for insomnia and other sleep disorders.” Even though the study population was considerably small, “the power of the research stems from the fact that the shortened sleep effect was replicated in mouse and fruit-fly studies,” prompting one expert to refer to study as “landmark.”  Those who claim that six hours of sleep is all they need to get by may, at first, be encouraged by the research, according to USA Today (8/14, Weise). Still, “the gene is vanishingly rare in humans, found in less than three percent of people.” What’s more, there are “consequences of chronic sleep deprivation,” which has “been linked to an increase in motor vehicle accidents, deficiencies in short-term memory, focus, and attention. It’s also tied to depressed mood and a decrease in the ability to control appetite.    This is of note, according to the NIH, because “sleep disorders and deprivation affect 50 to 70 million Americans, account for about $15 billion in medical expenses, and cost industry $50 billion in lost productivity,” Bloomberg News (8/14, Waters) reports.  Aiming to better understand sleep issues, the team in California has spent much time and energy hunting for “genes related to how and when people sleep,” the AP (8/14, Neergaard) notes. “In 2001, they discovered a mutation that puts its carriers’ sleep patterns out of whack: These people regularly go to bed around 7:30 p.m. and wake around 3:30 a.m.” Their current paper in Science, however, focuses on sleep length. Specifically, investigators analyzed the DNA of a “69-year-old mother and her 44-year-old daughter [who] typically go to bed around 10 pm, and Mom rises around 4 and her daughter around 4:30, with no apparent ill effects.” That data were compared to other family members who had “typical sleep patterns. Blood tests showed the women harbored a mutation in a gene named DEC2 that’s involved in regulation of circadian rhythms, the body’s clock.” Notably, a “check of more than 250 stored DNA samples didn’t find another carrier.   “Further research found that mice with the mutation slept less and recovered more quickly after being deprived of sleep,” HealthDay (8/13, Dotinga) reported. “It’s not clear, however, how the mutation actually affects sleep patterns.”

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