Genes May Hold Key to a Good Night's Sleep

The need for sleep can vary dramatically from person to person. And the reason, according to researchers at the UW-Madison, is genetic.

Scientists may have uncovered the mystery of sleep by studying the sleep patterns of flies which are very similar to humans.

Out of 9,000 genetic lines studied, they found one gene that determines if you need eight hours of sleep or if you can function just fine with four. The discovery could lead to more controlled sleep patterns in humans.

Dr. Chiara Cirelli says, "If you activate this particular gene you could imagine to have a very powerful power nap or very restorative sleep or vice versa, if you deactivate the gene you could have a very effective way to stay awake, much more powerful than caffeine.

Cirelli says there are no drugs available now that could affect this gene, but they hope to develop some and test them in animals.

The study was paid for by the Department of Defense.

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