Vitality

Identification Of Sleep Genes May Lead To Better Treatment For Sleeping Disorder And PTSD

Our DNA controls so many aspects of our lives, from how we look, to even how many children we will eventually have. However, a new study has shown that the power of genetics may even play a role in our sleep habits. The researchers identified two genes in mice, one which controls how much deep sleep we get and whether or not we dream, and suggest their discovery could lead to new treatments for sleep disorders. 

The genes specifically control non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which includes deep sleep, and the amount or need for REM sleep, associated with vivid dreaming. Their findings not only help researchers better understand the association between our genetics and our sleeping patterns, but also could lead to the way to research in better identifying potential targets to treat sleep disorders.

person The genetics of sleep could explain why some individuals get more REM sleep and more vivid dreaming. Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

“This research is just the beginning. We believe that these two genes are the first of many that regulate sleep," study co-author Dr. Joseph S. Takahashi of the O'Donnell Brain Institute said in a recent statement.

For the study, the team studied the sleep behaviors of two genetically altered mice: "Sleepy," a mutation in the Salt-Inducible Kinase 3 Sik3 (Sik3) gene which caused it to have 50 percent more non-REM sleep than a normal mouse, and "Dreamless," who had a mutation in the Sodium Leak Channel Non-selective (Nalcn) gene that caused it to have severely less REM sleep than a normal mouse. When these mutations were added to other mice, the team saw certain patterns take shape, and were able to conclude the effect that these two genes had on sleep.

"At least in theory, this study opens up future possibilities to create new sleep-regulating drugs, but doing so will occur in the distant future," said senior co-author Dr. Masashi Yanagisawa in a statement.

These findings are not only important for research into treatment for sleep disorders, but could also help in efforts to better treat mental health conditions. For example, research suggests that lack of REM sleep may contribute to the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, so therefore treating this problem could help with the overall condition.

Source: Funato H, Miyoshi C, Fujiyama T, et al. Forward-genetics analysis of sleep in randomly mutagenized mice. Nature . 2016

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