German scientists pinpoint a specific gene that may divide early risers from droopy-eyed nappers
Why are some people alert and chipper in the morning while others can barely drag themselves out of bed? New research suggests that genetics may play a role. Specifically, it’s a gene called ABCC9, which scientists have dubbed the “morning person” gene. Here’s what you should know:
How did scientists find this gene?
German scientists studied more than 4,000 people across Europe. The subjects filled out questionnaires on their sleeping habits, and also had their genes analyzed. It turns out that “people with two copies of one common variant of the gene ABCC9 slept for a significantly shorter period than those with two copies of the other version,” according to Fox News. To confirm the connection, scientists modified the ABCC9 gene in fruit flies, which noticeably shortened the length of time the insects slept.
So what is this ABCC9 gene?
It codes for a protein that effectively acts as “a sensor of energy metabolism in the cell,” says Science Daily. How does that affect sleep? It’s not totally clear. Though researchers have identified a correlation between this gene and sleep habits, the exact causation mechanism remains a bit of a mystery.
But having the “morning person” gene is a good thing?
For go-getters, maybe. But this variant of ABCC9 has also been linked to cardiovascular problems. “Apparently, the relationships of sleep duration with other conditions such as heart disease and diabetes can be part explained by an underlying common molecular mechanism,” says study author Dr. Karla Allebrandt. Previous studies also found a lack of sleep to be linked to calcium buildup in the heart’s arteries.
What’s the big takeaway here?
There’s a “growing body of evidence suggesting a connection between sleep and cardiovascular health,” says Carrie Gann at ABC News. But this study should also shift the way we look at sleep habits from a social standpoint. “Our society has equated sleepiness with defects of character, like laziness,” as one sleep expert tells Gann, “but really, some people are generally sleepier during the day.”