Nav: Home

Research identifies genetic causes of poor sleep

April 05, 2019

The international collaboration, led by the University of Exeter and published in Nature Communications, has found 47 links between our genetic code and the quality, quantity and timing of how we sleep. They include ten new genetic links with sleep duration and 26 with sleep quality.

The Medical Research Council-funded study looked at data from 85,670 participants of UK Biobank and 5,819 individuals from three other studies, who wore accelerometers - wrist-worn devices (similar to a Fitbit) which record activity levels continuously. They wore the accelerometers continuously for seven days, giving more detailed sleep data than previous studies, which have relied on people accurately reporting their own sleep habits.

Among the genomic regions uncovered is a gene called PDE11A. The research team discovered than an uncommon variant of this gene affects not only how long you sleep but your quality of sleep too. The gene has previously been identified as a possible drug target for treatment of people with neuropsychiatric disorders associated with mood stability and social behaviours.

The study also found that among people with the same hip circumference, a higher waist circumference resulted in less time sleeping, although the effect was very small - around 4 seconds less sleep per 1cm waist increase in someone with the average hip circumference of around 100cm.

The team involved colleagues from the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts General Hospital as well as the Netherlands, France and Switzerland. They found that collectively, the genetic regions linked to sleep quality are also linked to the production of serotonin - a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Serotonin is known to play a key role in sleep cycles and is theorised to help promote deeper and more restful sleep.

Senior author Dr Andrew Wood, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: "We know that getting enough sleep improves our health and wellbeing, yet we still know relatively little about the mechanisms in our bodies that influence how we sleep. Changes in sleep quality, quantity and timing are strongly associated with several human diseases such as diabetes and obesity, and psychiatric disorders.

Lead author Dr Samuel Jones, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: "This study identifies genetic variants influencing sleep traits, and will provide new insights into the molecular role of sleep in humans. It is part of an emerging body of work which could one day inform the development of new treatments to improve our sleep and our overall health."

The group also found further evidence that Restless Leg Syndrome is linked to poorer sleep from the genetic variants they found to be associated with sleep measures derived from the accelerometer data.

The full paper is entitled 'Genetic studies of accelerometer-based sleep measures yield new insights into human sleep behaviour'
-end-


University of Exeter

Related Sleep Articles:

'Short sleep' gene prevents memory deficits associated with sleep deprivation
The UCSF scientists who identified the two known human genes that promote 'natural short sleep' -- nightly sleep that lasts just four to six hours but leaves people feeling well-rested -- have now discovered a third, and it's also the first gene that's ever been shown to prevent the memory deficits that normally accompany sleep deprivation.
Short sleep duration and sleep variability blunt weight loss
High sleep variability and short sleep duration are associated with difficulties in losing weight and body fat.
Nurses have an increased risk of sleep disorders and sleep deprivation
According to preliminary results of a new study, there is a high prevalence of insufficient sleep and symptoms of common sleep disorders among medical center nurses.
Opioids are not sleep aids, and can actually worsen sleep research finds
Evidence that taking opioids will help people with chronic pain to sleep better is limited and of poor quality, according to an interdisciplinary team of psychologists and medics from the University of Warwick in partnership with Lausanne University Hospital, Switzerland.
Common sleep myths compromise good sleep and health
People often say they can get by on five or fewer hours of sleep, that snoring is harmless, and that having a drink helps you to fall asleep.
Sleep tight! Researchers identify the beneficial role of sleep
Why do animals sleep? Why do humans 'waste' a third of their lives sleeping?
Does extra sleep on the weekends repay your sleep debt? No, researchers say
Insufficient sleep and untreated sleep disorders put people at increased risk for metabolic problems, including obesity and diabetes.
Kicking, yelling during sleep? Study finds risk factors for violent sleep disorder
Taking antidepressants for depression, having post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety diagnosed by a doctor are risk factors for a disruptive and sometimes violent sleep disorder called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder, according to a study published in the Dec.
Sleep health and yoga intervention delivered in low-income communities improves sleep
Pilot study results indicate that a sleep and yoga intervention has promising effects on improving sleep disturbance, sleep-related impairment, and sleep health behaviors.
Can weekend sleep make up for the detriments of sleep deprivation during the week?
In a recent Journal of Sleep Research study, short, but not long, weekend sleep was associated with an increased risk of early death in individuals under 65 years of age.
More Sleep News and Sleep Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.