Researchers analyze genes that overlap with daytime naps

An older man takes an afternoon nap on the couch.

Researchers used data from the UK Biobank – a research registry of half a million adults – to explore genetic underpinnings of daytime naps. They found genes and genetic variants associated with daytime napping overlapped with targets in sleep medications, genes associated with arousal, and genes that may share pathways for excessive sleepiness and obesity. The team also found genetic associations with sleep characteristics, including sleep disruption. Another analysis revealed potential links between frequent daytime naps and higher blood pressure and waist circumference. The authors envision these findings, which published in Nature Communications, will support research about sleep disorders and sleep health. 

To create the review, the researchers selected 452,633 participants in the UK Biobank who shared genetic data and information about their sleep patterns. About 38% of participants napped sometimes and 5% always napped. Based on this information, the researchers identified 123 genes and variants associated with daytime napping. They compared these findings to 541,333 participants who shared similar data through 23andMe. Between the two groups, the researchers found 61 genes or genetic associations that correlated with daytime napping. To analyze precise data, the researchers assessed 85,499 UK Biobank participants wearing activity trackers – which revealed 33 genetic associations with a few distinct sleep patterns. Last, they evaluated how genetic markers overlapped with sleep patterns and disease risk, based on 23,561 patients receiving care at Massachusetts General Hospital or Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The researchers compared this insight to discoveries from other genetic studies.

The study was supported by an NHLBI grant for sleep apnea research.

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