Summary: Insomnia genes have been found for the first time, proving that the condition is not entirely a psychological one, thus bringing hope to people suffering from it. The new findings are published in the journal Nature Genetics.
7 Insomnia Genes Discovered
Insomnia is not just a psychological condition—it also has a biological mechanism working behind, indicates the new study which unveils seven genes that confer a higher risk for the ailment.
The new findings promise to pave the way to decoding the biological pathways that make certain people predisposed for insomnia. Lead author Eus Van Someren explains that this will help them gain a better understanding of insomnia at the level of the neurone: the interactions within and between different nerve cells pertaining to insomnia. Moreover, this knowledge will make it easier for researchers to develop new treatment strategies for insomniac patients.
It’s not all in your head!
This study also brings hope to the patients as it pinpoints a potential cause of the disease. Often enough, insomnia is not given due consideration; it is easily dismissed as not being real.
“As compared to the severity, prevalence and risks of insomnia, only few studies targeted its causes. Insomnia is all too often dismissed as being ‘all in your head’. Our research brings a new perspective. Insomnia is also in the genes,” says Van Someren.
Insomnia genes linked with other sleep disorders
According to the authors, the 7 genes are involved in the regulation of a process known as DNA transcription, whereby the information encoded in the DNA is read from its complementary copy. These genes also appear to play a role in exocytosis which is defined as the exit of molecules from cells as a means to communicate with their surroundings. Interestingly, one of these genes, MEIS1, was linked with two sleep disorders (Periodic Limb Movements of Sleep (PLMS) and Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)) in previous studies. And, now, it has been found that genetic variants of MEIS1 seem to account for all 3 disorders.
Another finding entails a strong genetic overlap that showcases other conditions that are associated with insomnia, such as anxiety disorders, depression and neuroticism, and low subjective wellbeing. First author of the study, Anke Hammerschlag , says that these traits come hand in hand with insomnia partly because of their shared genes.
Men vs Women
The biological mechanism causing insomnia appears to differ from men to women. Co-lead author Danielle Posthuma explains that some of the genetic variants are different. Another differing trait between the two sexes is in terms of prevalence: 33% of the women who participated in the study reported suffering from insomnia while only 24% of the men did.