Individuals with certain genetic mutation require less sleep and can tolerate sleep deprivation better than others

Sleep medicine societies recommend about seven to nine hours of night sleep in order to function effectively in daytime and avoid symptoms of sleep deprivation. The effects of sleep deprivation include day time sleepiness, concentration problems to depression and workplace accidents. A new study has shown that some people with certain genetic mutation require less sleep and can tolerate sleep deprivation better than others.  

The study analysed the sleep patterns of 100 pairs of twins to understand the effect of gene mutation on sleep patterns. The twins involved in the study were all of sound health and data was collected according to sleep patterns and genetic makeup. It was found that in case of the pair of twins, one twin needed more number of hours of sleep while another twin required lesser amount of sleep hours.

During the study, the sleep cycle was measured at home by using actigraphy for seven to eight hours. The participants were kept awake for a period of 38 hours to understand the extent of sleep deprivation and the recovery sleep requirements. In addition, Psychomotor Vigilance test was conducted every two hours to measure the cognitive performance of the participants involved post sleep deprivation.

Participants with p.Tyr362His – a variant of the BHLHE41 gene – had an average nightly sleep duration of only five hours, which was more than one hour shorter than the non-carrier twin, who slept for about six hours and five minutes per night. The study participants with this selective mutation experience lesser symptoms of sleep deprivation and shorter recovery sleep requirements.

Dr Renata Pellegrino, senior research associate in the centre for Applied Genomics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is of the opinion that the gene variant helped in resistance to sleep deprivation. The gene mutation altered resistance to the neurobehavioral effects of sleep deprivation which is felt by the other twin in the course of study. ‘Sleep is a biological requirement rather than a personal choice’ Dr Timothy Morgenthaler of American Academy of Sleep Medicine said; and the present study demonstrates it.

Date: 
Friday, August 29, 2014
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