Your insomnia may be caused by a variation in one or more of your genes. Scientists have found that several “sleep genes” can affect the amount and quality of sleep you get, your sleep and wake cycle and whether you’re predisposed to also suffer from anxiety and depression.
Throughout your body there are many different systems and subsystems that all work in unity with each other according to a regular schedule. If some of your biological clocks are running a little fast or slow it can have an effect on many other systems in your body.
People and fruit flies don’t have a lot in common and many professional athletes are indeed marginally brighter than fruit flies, but the sleep mechanism between the two species is similar.
Experiments with fruit flies have shown that if there is a mutation in a certain protein it caused them to sleep two thirds less than the normal amount and also resulted in the fruit flies having a shortened lifespan.
The mutated gene in the fruit flies caused them to sleep less, they slept for shorter periods of time and they woke up more often. Does that sound familiar?
They found that the insomnia gene affected specific proteins in the brain that are used to regulate and initiate sleep.
According to Dr. Nicholas Stravropoulos of Rockefeller University, “This work gives us several new clues about how sleep is controlled at the molecular level, and could prove useful in understanding and treating sleep disorders.”
Scientists have known that men with chronic insomnia usually have a shortened lifespan due to their condition being linked to diabetes and high blood pressure.
Louis Ptacek of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute experimented with mice and found another insomnia gene that dictate whether a person will feel refreshed or not after sex hours of sleep. His team also found that another gene regulates your body’s circadian rhythm, the clock that controls your sleep and wake cycle, hormones, brain functions, body temperature and your immune system.
Dr. Ptacek believes that understanding these genes will lead to a treatment that’s common among the elderly – that of falling asleep early and getting up early.
At the Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, genes that cause insomnia in adolescents are also the same ones involved in anxiety and depression.
During medical school, your physician received very little training on sleep disorders and insomnia, which probably explains why they often write prescriptions for sleeping pills (they were taught this by the pharmaceutical sales rep).
Insomnia may run in your genes and may affect the quality and quantity of sleep you get.
What sleep problem do you have? Does it run in your family? Leave a comment below.