What Genetics Have to do with Sleep

The constant stream of customers at Orange County mattress stores is evidence of the fact that sleep is important to everyone. Finding the right mattress, the right pillow, and the right comforter is always going to be a human endeavor. We sleep in multiple stages with the deepest REM cycle being responsible for storing our memories, helping us absorb information, and letting us dream. However, recent studies have shown that our sleeping patterns go beyond our unconscious individual habits. Sleeping is genetic too. 


According to sleep experts, the genes that we inherit from our parents can determine how much sleep we need to function and feel well-rested. Most doctors recommend 7 to 9 hours of sleep for the average adult. However, many people require more hours or can successfully operate with less, depending on certain gene mutations

A professor of neurology recently found the gene mutation nicknamed DEC2, which is associated with the ability to have restful short sleep (4-6 hours). A follow-up study by the same researchers also found ADRB1 and NPSR1, other gene mutations linked to families that could sleep efficiently. The fascinating thing about NPSR1 is that this mutation also prevents the typical memory issues that can happen from sleep deprivation. According to the study, a father and son could sleep an average of 5 hours a night without experiencing any negative effects. Researchers are particularly interested in these mutations for their potential insight into the influence of genetics on our health and wellness. 

Another sleep-related factor that could be affected by genetics is our sleep/wake cycles. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, our internal clocks may be set to 24 hours but our circadian rhythms can vary between individuals. In fact, genetic mutations can play a role in how quickly or slowly our clock moves. For example, being a morning person versus being a night person may be linked to genetics. 

Researchers have also found that, along with sleep cycles and hours of rest, our sleep disorders can be genetic as well. Conditions like insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy have been identified as being shared by family members. At least 60% of people with restless leg syndrome have someone else in their family that suffers from this. Now that studies have found links between genetic mutations and certain sleep disorders, people are able to look into their family history to assess their risk for conditions like sleep apnea, thus allowing for more preventative strategies. 

While genetics can have a significant impact on our sleeping patterns, it is important to remember that our individual environment and routine can make a difference as well. Just because your parents have trouble falling asleep at night, doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a life of insomnia. According to sleep experts at Orange County mattress stores, we do have some control over the quality of sleep we get each night and we can improve our chances of having a good night’s rest by practicing healthy habits.