Insomnia genes discovered – groundbreaking research
Seven genes for insomnia have been found by a team of international researchers, they report in Nature Genetics.
In a sample of 113,006 people, the researchers found seven genes for insomnia, one of which is known to influence other sleep disorders as well.
The work is an important step towards unraveling the biological mechanisms that cause insomnia and proves that it is not a purely psychological condition.
Chronic pain and insomnia often go hand in hand, and can become a viscous circle of pain, sleeplessness and depression.
The discovery that genes are involved will lead to understanding insomnia at the level of communication within and between neurons, and new ways of treatment.
“As compared to the severity, prevalence and risks of insomnia, only few studies targeted its causes,” explains Prof Van Someren, who is involved in the work. “Insomnia is all too often dismissed as being ‘all in your head’. Our research brings a new perspective. Insomnia is also in the genes.”
Of the 113,006 people in the sample (most of whom were over 50 years old) 33% of women and 24% of men reported to suffer from insomnia.
The researchers also found a strong genetic overlap with other traits, such as anxiety disorders, depression and low subjective wellbeing. “This is an interesting finding, because these characteristics tend to go hand in hand with insomnia,” says Dr Anke Hammerschlag, first author. “We now know that this is partly due to the shared genetic basis.”
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