To sleep or not: Researchers explore complex genetic network behind sleep duration

Scientists have identified differences in a group of genes they say may help explain why some people need more sleep than others. The study, conducted using fruit fly populations bred to model natural variations in human sleep patterns, provides new clues to how genes for sleep duration are linked to a wide variety of biological processes. A better understanding of these processes could lead to new ways to treat sleep disorders such as insomnia and narcolepsy, the researchers say.  “This study is an important step toward solving one of the biggest mysteries in biology: the need to sleep,” says study leader Susan Harbison, Ph.D., an investigator in the Laboratory of Systems Genetics at NHLBI. “The involvement of highly diverse biological processes in sleep duration may help explain why the purpose of sleep has been so elusive.” The study, published in PLOS Genetics, was funded by NHLBI.