AAN Logo Is sleep deprivation a major issue faced by most individuals? Well, the following tidbit presumably sheds light on the cause of this problem. According to a recent study a gene variant affects an individual’s sleep. The gene variant DQB1 *0602 probably linked with narcolepsy, a sleep disorder was thoroughly scrutinized.

Presence of DQB1 *0602 need not affirm the ability to develop narcolepsy, but depends on population. 12 to 38 percent individuals with this gene variant do not report sleep disorder and are healthy sleepers. Though people without DQB1*0602 gene variant may develop the sleep disorder, but such incidences are very rare. 92 healthy adults without the gene variant were compared to 37 healthy adults with DQB1*0602 throughout the study. It was noted that those displaying this gene variant were not diagnosed with any sleep disorders.

“This gene may be a biomarker for predicting how people will respond to sleep deprivation, which has significant health consequences and affects millions of people around the world. It may be particularly important to those who work on the night shift, travel frequently across multiple time zones, or just lose sleep due to their multiple work and family obligations. However, more research and replication of our findings are needed,” affirmed Namni Goel, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia and the lead author.

The study was initiated in a sleep laboratory wherein for the first two nights participants had to spend 10 hours in bed and were resting fully. For the next five nights volunteers reported chronic partial sleep deprivation, also termed as sleep restriction. In chronic partial sleep deprivation, study subjects were allowed four hours in bed per night. In the remaining time, lights were kept on and participants were free to read, play games, or watch movies for staying awake. During the analysis, sleep quality and self-rated sleepiness was measured. Also memory, attention and ability to resist sleep during the daytime were monitored by the scientists.

The outcome of the study was that volunteers with the DQB1*0602 gene variant appeared more in need of sleep and were more fatigued and also their sleep was greatly fragmented. While those with the gene variant woke up on average almost four times during the fifth night of sleep deprivation, people without DQB1*0602 woke up on average twice. Also lower sleep drive, or desire to sleep, during the fully rested nights was noted in those with the gene variant by the authors. Less time was apparently spent in deep sleep by people with the gene variant as compared to those without the variant, during both the fully rested and sleep deprivation nights.

In the second fully rested night, an average of 34 minutes in stage three sleep was seemingly observed among those with the variant and the ones without the variant. In the process of the fifth night of sleep deprivation, individuals with the variant probably spent an average of 29 minutes in stage three sleep and 35 minutes by those without the variant. Similar results on the tests of memory and attention were registered by both the groups. Also no variation in their capability to resist sleep during the daytime appeared.

The study was published in the October 26, 2010, print issue of Neurology.