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How You Handle Lack of Sleep May Be in Your Genes
Date:10/25/2010

By Madonna Behen
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Oct. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Why is it that two people can be equally sleep-deprived, and yet the next day one person ends up feeling more tired and listless than the other?

The answer could be in their genes, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that healthy individuals who test positive for a common gene variant are sleepier and more fatigued after being sleep-deprived than people who don't. The variant is related to narcolepsy, which causes excess daytime sleepiness, but previous studies have shown that up to one-third of people who test positive for the gene are considered normal, healthy sleepers.

"This particular gene, which is carried by roughly 30 percent of the population, may be a biomarker for predicting how someone will respond to getting too little sleep," said study author Namni Goel, an assistant professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

"This study provides hard evidence that genes can play a key role in determining how we respond to sleep deprivation," said Dr. Jeffrey Ellenbogen, chief of sleep medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. "Keep in mind that the kind of sleep deprivation examined in this study, so-called 'partial sleep deprivation,' is not just a lab technique, it's something that happens to millions of people, for a variety of reasons," he added. "And this genetic marker is common. So we're talking about a lot of people that this study potentially describes."

For the study, which was published in the Oct. 26 issue of Neurology, Goel and her colleagues studied 92 healthy adults without the gene variant and 37 healthy adults who had the gene variant but did not have any sleep disorders. For the first two nights, they spent 10 hours in bed and were fully rested. The next five nights they underwent c
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