Gene Mutation Turns People Into Night Owls

Posted: Apr 7 2017, 8:58am CDT | by , Updated: Apr 7 2017, 9:47am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Gene Mutation Turns You into a Night Owl
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  • Genetic Mutation may be Responsible for Turning Ordinary People into Night Owls

Apparently, a specific genetic mutation may be responsible for turning ordinary people into night owls.

There are so many people who stay up later than 12:00 midnight and then have great difficulty waking up in the morning. This is because their internal clock is running at a slower rate and this in turn is genetically determined.

Scientists have gotten to the bottom of all this and found that a mutation in a gene termed CRY1 alters the human circadian clock. This normally controls rhythms of sleepiness and wakefulness.

Those who carried the gene tended to have nighttime sleep delays of 2 to 2.5 hours which significantly influenced their cycles of snoozing and alertness.

Those who didn’t have such a genetic mutation in their systems didn’t face any such issues and it was indeed a blessing to go to sleep and get up on time.

Those who carry this gene tend to have longer days than the planet has set for the rest of the human beings. Thus they are trying to catch some extra sleep, which eludes them, for the rest of their lives. This is tragic to say the least.

Such night owls (as they are called on an informal basis) were studied in the lab. What was found was that they had delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD).

This gene mutation which affects those with DSPD is common among 10% of the population. These poor people find it a struggle to go to sleep at night. Sleep simply eludes them.

Even when it does finally come, it is too late and they have too little time to catch their daily quota of Z’s. DSPD is associated with anxiety, depression, CV disease and diabetes.

Such people also cannot show conformity to societal expectations of work routines and have a hard time getting up at the crack of dawn.

It is almost a case of having jet lag that refuses to go away. They feel woozy and have a lot of brain fog in the morning each day of their lives which hinders their productivity.

The circadian clock of the fruit fly was studied to gauge how this thing called DSPD works in other species. Apparently, a mutation in CRY1 helps drive the circadian clock into its erroneous zones.

The circadian clock is the same in all species. The cycles of the clock are based on certain proteins and their activators not to mention their inhibitors. The genetic mutation was ultimately responsible for DSPD although not all night owls had this anomaly in their genes.

This study got published in the journal Cell.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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