Genes That Hinder Sleep Identified

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Every one of us has had a fitful night’s sleep at one time or another. We know then that the next day our brains are a little fuzzy, our mood is snappy, we have trouble concentrating, and creating an overall bad day.

This condition is called “Sleep Deprivation,” and can be acute (occasional or short-term) or chronic. It can be caused by being too wound up, too much daytime napping, stress, a poor diet, depression or any number of reasons.

A person can’t survive without sleep. Prisoners of war have recounted how they were not allowed to sleep in order for their captures to be able to control their behavior. In lab animals, long-term total sleep deprivation has caused death.

Chronic, long lasting or recurrent sleep deprivation can result in irritability, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, brain fog, weight loss and gain, lack of coordination, and causes loss of memory and brain function. It can lead to depression, and indicates a need for counseling for mental disorders.

An estimated 20% of adults experience some type of sleep deprivation. Although the majority of cases are acute and easily explainable, for those with chronic lack of sleep the consequences can be catastrophic.   According to police records, a big reason for the number of accidents on the road, in the workplace or at home, is lack of sleep. Under sleep deprived conditions the body acts similar to being intoxicated. Memory, concentration, the ability to complete a job or study, and the ability to make good decisions are all affected by this condition.

New research, from two different studies, were recently published that leads scientists to believe the problem is ingrained in our DNA (genes).

Frontiers in Neuroscience posted a report on a study following what they called a “gene expression map,” that sheds new light on this problem.“The study identified the effects of sleep deprivation on gene expression (the state of a gene’s activity level — on or off) in the brain.”

They tracked the activity of over 200 genes in seven areas of the brain while the subjects were sleeping, waking and in a state of sleep deprivation. The scientists found that being deprived of sleep impacted the neurons in the frontal brain regions that related to higher cognitive reasoning, emotions, and memory functions. They found that there were unique genes that were associated with stress and the body’s response to it — through memory loss, lack of coordination and anger management, concentration and coordination.

According to the study, “Sleep deficits have also been linked to the development of diabetes, depression, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Mapping these changes in gene activity is a critical step toward advances in the treatment of sleep disorders and overcoming the effects of sleep deprivation.”

The other study, published in the March 12, 2007 edition of Science Daily was developed by Antoine Viola, Derk-Jan Dijk, and their colleagues at the University of Surrey’s Sleep Research Center. They found that a “genetic difference in a so-called “clock gene” called PERIOD3, makes some people particularly sensitive to the effects of sleep deprivation.” They added that individuals respond differently to sleep deprivation, but they firmly believe there are biological reasons for the difference.

They noted the PERIOD3 gene has long and short tags that, when compared show distinct differences between people we classify as “night owls” and “day larks.” These gene clusters, once they are able to identify and separate, will allow them to find a treatment for the disorder.

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About the author:

Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life.


MemoryZine at Practical Memory Institute – Study of Sleep Deprivation Identifies Genes That Hinder Memory:

Wikipedia — Sleep Deprivation:;   and Effects of sleep deprivation on cognitive performance:

Science Daily (March 12, 2007) Performing Under Sleep Deprivation: Its In Your Genes:

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