Scientists discover a rare sleep gene in a family that needs less than six hours a night
- Some people need less than six and a half hours of sleep to feel well rested
- Researchers have linked it to a mutation in the ADRB1 gene, which increases brain cell activity that promotes vigilance
- In mice that were gene-edited to have the same mutation, they slept on average 55 minutes less than normal
Those who claim, as former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously needs less than five hours of sleep, are confronted with disbelief by the rest of us.
But short sleepers really exist, and a new study now suggests that they have a gene that wakes them up.
While most people need about eight hours of sleep per night, feeling misty and confused when they don't get it, & # 39; natural short sleepers & # 39; feel rested after six hours.
It is impossible to know whether Thatcher was a genetically short sleeper or forced himself to stay up.
But researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, have discovered more than 50 families that need less than six and a half hours of sleep to make ends meet.
By taking one of these families, they have isolated the genetic mutation that they believe is responsible.
A new study from the University of California at San Francisco has shown that some people have a gene that requires only six and a half hours of sleep to feel well rested (file image)
The perpetrator is probably a gene called ADRB1, which increases the activity of brain cells that promote vigilance, waking someone up early and getting tired later.
In the family that slept briefly, all those who needed little sleep shared the genetic mutation, while their longer-sleeping relatives did not.
In addition, when scientists tweak the same gene in mice, they slept 55 minutes less than regular mice.
"It is remarkable that we know so little about sleep, given that the average person spends a third of his life on it," said co-senior author Dr. Louis Ptáček, professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco.
& # 39; This research is an exciting new frontier that allows us to analyze the complexity of brain circuits and the different types of neurons that contribute to sleep and vigilance. & # 39;
Experts know a lot about the genetic properties of circadian rhythms, our natural body clocks, so that some people are susceptible as early birds and others as night owls.
But less was known about the genes that control how much sleep people need until the first family of short sleepers was discovered ten years ago.
The fact that blood relatives all had the same tendency to sleep less than six and a half hours suggested that they had a gene in common.
Then more families came forward, with short sleep two or three generations back, and researchers began to sequence the genes of one of these families.
The results, published in the journal Neuron, show that the ADRB1 gene was different among the family members who reported that they functioned normally after only six hours of sleep.
The very rare genetic disorder regulates activity in the dorsal punch, a part of the brain that is related to sleep.
When the researchers used gene processing to make mice with the same mutation, they slept on average 55 minutes less than normal.
The discovery of a gene that is important to keep people awake can lead to new drugs that help people to sleep, but more research is needed to find other genetic causes for short sleep.
For future research, the team plans to examine how the ADRB1 protein functions in other parts of the brain.
& # 39; Sleep is complicated, & # 39; said Dr. Ptáček. & # 39; We do not think there is one gene or one brain region that tells our body to sleep or wake up. This is just one of many parts. & # 39;
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