Scientists identify gene in people who need little sleep

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Scientists identified a gene that causes people to naturally sleep less than six and a half hours each night without any apparent health effects.

Previous studies have led to the identification of over 50 families with people who need less than six and a half hours of sleep a night to feel well rested.

Using whole exome genome sequencing, the researchers searched for gene mutations that only the naturally short sleepers had.

Scientists found a rare mutation in the ADRB1 gene that was being passed through the family. Family members who inherited one copy of this mutant gene had a shortened sleep cycle, according to a University of California, San Francisco study supported by the National Institutes of Health.

To learn more about the mutation’s effects in the brain, the researchers created genetically engineered mice with the altered gene. Mice with the genetic mutation slept almost an hour less each day than normal mice.

Mice with the mutation also showed increased activity of brain cells compared with normal mice.

The amount of sleep you need changes as you age, and sleep needs vary from person to person. Most adults need to sleep seven or more hours each night.

Healthy sleep involves not only getting enough hours of sleep, but sleeping at the right time of day and having good quality sleep.

You may not be getting quality sleep if you don’t feel rested after you’ve slept enough, you repeatedly wake up during the night, or you experience symptoms of sleep disorders

Not getting enough sleep can lead to physical and mental health problems.

The UCSF team was led by Dr. Ying-Hui Fu and Dr. Louis Ptáček.

“Natural short sleepers experience better sleep quality and sleep efficiency,” Fu says. “By studying them, we hope to learn what makes for a good night’s sleep, so that all of us can be better sleepers leading happier, healthier lives.”

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