A new study from American and British scientists has identified genetic connections between sleep disturbance and a surprising range of medical disorders.

The study looked at insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, and length of sleep and how these factors relate to overall health. The research team found that they are actually strongly related to several conditions, including restless legs syndrome, schizophrenia and obesity.

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Researchers examined health data from 112,000 people taking part in the study, EurekAlert! reported. Participants had their genes mapped and previous issues with weight and any diseases were considered. Additionally, they reported personal sleep duration, degree of insomnia, and levels of daytime sleepiness.

Results revealed areas of a specific genome associated with these sleep disturbances. Genetic links were also discovered connections with several medical conditions — including restless legs syndrome, schizophrenia and obesity.

"This clinical science is an important step forwards in understanding the biological basis for these conditions; so it's very exciting. Scientists have long observed a connection between sleep disorders and these conditions in epidemiological studies. But this is the first time these biological links have been identified at a molecular level,” said joint lead author Martin K Rutter, MD, FRCP, according to EurekAlert!

Source: Lane JM, Liang J, Vlasac I, Anderson SG, Bechtold DA, Bowden J, Emsley R, Gill S, Little MA. Genome-wide association analyses of sleep disturbance traits identify new loci and highlight shared genetics with neuropsychiatric and metabolic traits. Nature Genetics. 2016.

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