A new study recently analysed why some people are able to function perfectly well on a few hours’ sleep every night compared to those who need to spend far more time catching up on their zzz’s. The results found that genes and biological processes can have a huge impact on how much sleep you actually need.
Believe it or not, the scientists involved in this study used fruit flies to reach their conclusions. By selectively breeding 13 generations of these fruit flies, they were able to produce groups of long-sleepers (18 hours per day) or short sleepers (3 hours per day) which enabled them to compare the genomes of the two strains.
The scientists identified 126 differences in 80 genes that appear to be linked to how much sleep is needed each day. These variations also appear to be linked to brain development, learning, and memory, which means that the results of this study take us one step closer to understanding the links between sleep and genetics.
As fruit flies share a lot of the same DNA as humans, the study might give us a better understanding of certain sleep-related health issues such as insomnia and narcolepsy. If we can start to understand the biological need to sleep we may be able to gain better insights into complex physiological traits and disease.
Of course, there is a lot more to discover, but it certainly gives us a glimpse into the “classic enigma” that is sleep!
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