Are you one of these people who go to sleep gone midnight and then can’t get your backside out of bed in the morning? Yeah me too! Well guess what, there’s a good chance that’s hard-wired into your DNA.
Now if you are like me and suffer from poor sleep then good luck getting through this next paragraph without nodding off, It’s about to get technical!
A recent study took place and it examined the sleep patterns of 70 people who suffered from a condition known as delayed sleep phase disorder or DSPD. The study found a link between the condition and a gene called CRY1. Presumably named that because sleep issues make people want to cry? No? I should leave puns to the experts, shouldn’t I?
Apparently, it is a mutation in that gene that messes with our sleep patterns, the circadian clock as it is sometimes referred. People with this condition, therefore, have a lag period where really they should be sleepy but their body is like “uh no pal, that ain’t happening” so it’s almost like their bodies are lagging behind a “normal person”.
The research was published in Cell and was centred on six Turkish families. Half of them carried this particular gene and half didn’t. To sum up the results in simple terms those who didn’t have the gene tended to get sleepy earlier than those that did have it. There was about 4 hours “lag” between those that did and didn’t have the gene.
The Circadian clock
When you are the type of person that wakes up at the same time every day, you can thank your Circadian clock for it. A person’s Circadian clock is kept in check by something called a protein cycle. It starts when the cells inside your body produce a particular type of protein known as an activator. (cool name eh?) These activators increase the activity of their cell. They also produce a certain amount of a protein called inhibitors. Guess what they do? That’s right they prevent the activators from doing their thing. Over the course of a day, the inhibitors start to degrade and the activators are able to do their thing once again and thus the cycle continues.
The CRY1 gene
The CRY1 gene affects this pattern in a way that’s pretty easy to understand. Basically, it creates inhibitors that stick around for longer than they would in someone with the CRY1 gene. The research shows that sometimes these inhibitors can extend the cycle by a further 30 minutes.
Alina Patke, from The Rockefeller University, Is one of the people to head up the study. He commented how people who have the specific mutation effectively have a longer internal day then the actual planet allows. So they are in a state of perpetual catch-up.
His ideas are supported by Senior author Professor Michael Young who likened it to having constant jet lag.
This condition affects about 1 in 10 of the population it is estimated. However, and here is a bit of a plot twist, databases have shown that only about 1 in 75 people have this CRY1 gene. So although studies have proven that this is a factor in DSPD it is clearly not the only cause.
Whilst scientists may not have DSPD all figured out the good news is that people can manage the condition. According to one of the people who had the CRY1 gene they were able to fight their bodies natural rhythm by maintaining a consistent sleep pattern.
Patke did provide hope by stating that those suffering from the condition can make changes to help themselves cope with the condition.