Some people can wake feeling refreshed after only a few hours of sleep each night, and the New York Times writes that researchers have homed in on a gene that could influence people's sleep needs.
Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, examined a family with numerous short sleepers — people who only need an average four to six hours of sleep a night — to home in on a variant they shared in the β1-adrenergic receptor gene. As they report in Neuron, when the researchers studied mice carrying the same alteration, they found the mice also slept less. Further, they write that the reporter the gene encodes is highly expressed in the dorsal pons of the brain and the ADRB1+ neurons are active during both REM sleep and wakefulness. This, the researchers report, suggests the β1-adrenergic receptors have a role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle.
"It was predicted from animal studies, but actually having people who have changes as a result of it is really important," Amita Sehgal, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania who was not involved in the study, tells the Times.