5 Surprising Ways Your Genes Can Affect Your Sleep

How can some people get by on six hours of sleep, while others struggle with anything less than nine? Why does depression often go hand in hand with poor sleep? And why is good sleep so critical to overall metabolism?

The answers to all of these questions may lie in our genes.

Although the science of sleep is still young, scientists have uncovered a number of surprising ways that genes might affect your sleep. Here are five:

1. “Short-sleepers” can get by on just 4 to 6 hours a night.

In 2009, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco discovered a gene mutation that allows some people to feel refreshed on much less sleep than the normal population — as little as 4 hours a night, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The gene is heritable and rare. So for the rest of us, a minimum of 7.5 hours it is.

2. There’s a gene linked to both seasonal depression and poor sleep.

A two-for-one special that no one wants: Two rare variants of the PERIOD3 (PER3) gene are linked to both Seasonal Affective Disorder — depression related to change in the seasons — and poor sleeping patterns.

That’s because PER3 helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle and the relationship between moods and natural light, according to a study published in January in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This is the first human mutation directly linked to seasonal affective disorder, and the first clear sign of a mechanism that could link sleep to mood disorders,” Dr. Louis Ptáček, professor of neurology at UC San Francisco and a co-author of the study, said in a statement.

3. DNA may be why sleep and metabolism are associated.

In 2013, scientists identified a —> Read More