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Do you get your best work done late at night and then struggle to wake up in the morning? New research suggests your night owl tendencies could be hard-wired in your genes.
In the new study, researchers looked at 70 people from six families and found that a mutation in a gene called CRY1 was common among those who have a condition known as delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD). In people with this condition, the circadian clock runs behind, so they wake up later than normal, and go to bed later than normal.
The mutation was absent in the members of these same families who did not have DSPD, the researchers said. In addition, the researchers showed in lab experiments that this gene may play a key role in driving the circadian clock. [Top 10 Spooky Sleep Disorders]
This is the first genetic mutation found to be associated with DSPD, the researchers said.
“Carriers of the mutation have longer days than the planet gives them, so they are essentially playing catch-up for their entire lives,” Alina Patke, the lead author of the study and a research associate in the Laboratory of Genetics at The Rockefeller University, said in a statement from Cell Press. The findings are published today (April 6) in the journal Cell.
The circadian clock is an internal rhythm that guides nearly all life on Earth. In people, it dictates when one feels tired, hungry or awake. It even regulates body temperature. Most people are hard-wired to a 24-hour clock, but up to 10 percent of peoplewith DSPD follow an internal clock that runs on a longer loop.
“A person like a bartender, for example, might not experience any problem with the delayed sleep cycle,” Patke told Live Science. “But someone like a surgeon who has to be in the OR in the early morning – that’s not compatible.”
Patke and her colleagues first identified the DSPD-linked mutation seven years ago, in a 46-year-old U.S. woman who had come to a sleep clinic after a long struggle with her late sleep cycle.
Patke’s team andother researchers analyzed the woman’s natural sleep patterns. She was placed in an apartment for two weeks that was isolated from all time cues. [5 Surprising Sleep Discoveries]
“It didn’t have windows, TV or internet,” Patke said. “Then we told her to live on her own timeline and to eat and sleep according to what her body told her to do.”
In this isolation, the woman settled into a rhythm that stretched about 1 hour longer than the typical 24-hour circadian cycle, and her sleep was fragmented, Patke said.
In sequencing her genes, the researchers identified the CRY1 mutation. The mutation is a single-point mutation in the CRY1 gene, meaning just one “letter” in its genetic instructions is off.
In the new study, Patke’s team confirmed CRY1 genetic mutation’s link to delayed sleep phase disorder by looking for the mutation among the woman’s extended family, and in other population samples.
Using a database of genomic information for people in Turkey, the researchers identified people who carried the mutation in CRY1. In collaboration with researchers at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, the researchers reached out to these people, and were able to conduct interviews and perform further DNA sequencing with the members of six families.
Among the Turkish family members, 39 carried the CRY1 mutation, and 31 did not. Data revealed that the sleep cycles of those carrying the gene were clearly late-shifted. Their midpoint of sleep naturally fell between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., while the midpoint of sleep for those who did not carry the mutation fell around 4 a.m. [5 Things You Must Know About Sleep]
Other genetic causes?
Clinical studies estimate that up to 10 percent of people experience delayed sleep phase disorder, and not all the cases may be linked to this single mutation, the researchers said.
In fact, Patke said that she is a night owl and often works late into the night. But she does not carry the CRY1 mutation.
“I checked,” she said. “Not everybody who had this behavior necessarily has this mutation, but it does seem to have an effect on a large part of the population.”
There are likely other underlying genetic causes for the condition, Patke said.
Still, identifying at least one genetic mutation behind the sleep disorder represents an important step.
“Understanding how the rhythms are controlled opens the door to eventually manipulating them with drugs,” Patke said.
Also, she said that if a drug is eventually found to help night owls align their sleep schedules to normal patterns, a similar pathway could tapped to help travelers deal with jet lag.
In the meantime, the researchers emphasized there are strategies that people with delayed sleep phase disorder can use to try to reset their clocks.
Patke advised practicing “good sleep hygiene,” which involves going to bed at a set time every night, even on weekends, and waking up at a set time each morning. Avoiding bright lights (including laptops and smartphones) at night also helps, as does exposing yourself to the sunlight first thing in the morning.
“Even if you have this mutation, it’s not unchangeable destiny,” Patke said. “There are steps you can take to try and match your internal rhythms to the outside world.”
Lead study author Matthew Walker, head of the sleep and neuroimaging laboratory at University of California, Berkeley, said sleeplessness is the result of the loss of neuronal connections in the brain that pick up on the body’s cues that it’s tired. In experiments that compared the amount and type of chemical signals involved in sleep in younger mice to older ones, neuroscientists found that the chemical signature was the same regardless of age. The problem is that the receptors in the brain that receive that signal decline with age, Walker explained in a press release. That means the aging brain has the same sleep cues inside of it, but it’s unable to pick up on those cues. “It’s almost like a radio antenna that’s weak,” Walker added. “The signal is there, but the antenna just can’t pick it up.”
Walker said that while the assumption has been that insomnia was a consequence of aging, insufficient sleep may actually be a contributing factor to aging itself. Scientists have found causal links between a lack of sleep and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. When it comes to memory, sleep is a “Goldilocks issue”: Both too much and too little aren’t very good, according to a Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study.
The Sleep Foundation says that older people need seven to nine hours of sleep a night, the same amount as growing adolescents. But they are not getting it. The National Institute on Aging found that 13 percent of men and 36 percent of women over age 65 take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep. And they often sleep less deeply and wake up more often throughout the night.
But sleep deprivation can actually begin much earlier in life ― often affecting people in their late 20s and early 30s, Walker said. In fact, by the time a person hits 50, they will only have about 50 percent of the deep sleep that they were getting in their early 20s. By 70, individuals have little, if any, high-quality deep sleep. Sleeping pills, he said, are often prescribed to older adults. But a sedated sleep just means you aren’t waking up throughout the night, not that you are getting your necessary deep sleep.
Walker, who holds several patents focused on consumer-based sleep measures, is the author of the forthcoming book Why We Sleep. The National Institutes of Health funded this study.
Back when I was 30, my life fell apart. My marriage collapsed, I sank into a depression, and I lost my home, money, and self-respect. I also blew out my knee.
I wish I could say I injured it climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or something, but no—it was nothing that exciting. Here’s what happened: One afternoon, right in the middle of my God-awful divorce, I turned my head to look at something over my right shoulder, and suddenly my left knee…exploded. It made a sound like a gunshot, and I felt something inside the joint go snap. Then my leg went out from under me, and I hit the ground in agony. When I finally stood up, I was limping. And I limped for the next 13 years.
Long after I had put my life back together, my knee still hurt. I tried everything to fix it: physical therapy, acupuncture, ice, heat, yoga, massage, and ibuprofen by the handful. (The one remedy I refused to attempt was surgery, only because I knew so many people whose knee surgery had made their condition worse.) Over time, I resigned myself to the fact that my knee was just bad—the way certain dogs and art and upholstery patterns are just bad.
And then one day, about five years ago, I did a curious thing. I decided to try to really listen to my bad knee. We’d spend a quiet evening together, with the lights turned down and the phone turned off, in order to understand each other. I got very still with myself, focused all my attention upon my knee, and asked it, with loving respect, “What are you trying to tell me?”
I wasn’t sure what to expect. How can a knee answer a question, right? But I was desperate to heal myself, so I just lay there quietly in the dark, ready to listen to whatever arose.
And then my knee spoke.
Full disclosure: I’m not a doctor. Nor am I crazy. But I know what I heard that night. And when I say unto you that my knee spoke, I mean, my knee spoke. Suddenly a strong and unfamiliar voice filled my consciousness, and this is what it said: “Go faster!”
The secret to keeping your mind and body young and vibrant at any age: getting your beauty sleep.
Contrary to popular belief, older adults need more — not less — slumber, according to an April 2017 study published in the journal Neuron. In fact, lack of quality shut-eye among senior citizens can raise their risk of memory loss and suffering wide range of mental and physical disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and stroke.
“Nearly every disease killing us in later life has a causal link to lack of sleep,” Matthew Walker, senior author of the study and professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley, stated in a press release. “We’ve done a good job of extending life span, but a poor job of extending our health span. We now see sleep, and improving sleep, as a new pathway for helping remedy that.”
“I am not surprised by these findings,” Robert Oexman, director of the Sleep to Live Institute, tells Yahoo Beauty. “A great deal of the research that promoted the idea that older people need less sleep was based on surveys of older people’s sleeping habits, and did not consider how they felt about the quality of their sleep and their daytime alertness.”
In fact, Oexman encourages his elderly patients to spend extra time under the sheets to “get the same amount of sleep they got when they were younger, but that does not guarantee that they will be getting the quality of sleep they need.”
Oexman, who is also a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, explains that there are a few common risk factors for inadequate sleep among all generations: They include depression, alcohol use, and pain, as well as side effects from certain medications.
The study authors pointed out that “dissatisfying sleep” can began when adults enter their 30s, and it can spiral into cognitive and physical ailments once someone hits middle age. Oexman adds that the previous risk factors, along with stress — caused by one’s career, parenting, and caring for aging parents, for example — contribute to this problem.
“As we age, we also see changes in our ability to manage shifts in our circadian rhythm,” Oexman continues. “This happens as we fluctuate our bedtimes and wake times to accommodate work schedules, kids’ schedules, and recreational activities on the weekend.”
However, sleeping issues may also occur because “our aging brain may not be able to function as it did when we were younger,” adds Oexman. “For some people, this may happen quicker than others and may be influenced by environmental factors, exercise, eating habits, drug use, and alcohol.”
To determine the quality of your sleep, he suggests asking yourself the following questions:
- How easy is it for you to wake up in the morning? (“If you hit the snooze alarm multiple times, you are not getting the quantity and/or quality of sleep you need,” says Oexman.)
- Would it be easy for you to fall back to sleep one hour after getting out of bed?
- Do you fall asleep at inappropriate times — such as while watching a movie, at a play or socializing with friends at home?
- Do you often fall asleep while watching TV or reading in the evening after work?
“The best indicator of quality sleep is how you feel in the daytime,” says Oexman. (Hint: You should feel alert, and not just because you’ve had three cups of coffee.)
The study author Walker notes that non-pharmaceutical interventions — including electrical stimulation to amplify brain waves during sleep and acoustic tones that act like a metronome to slow brain rhythms — are being investigated as means of enhancing quality shut-eye instead of reaching for sleeping pills at night.
“The American College of Physicians has acknowledged that sleeping pills should not be the first line, knee-jerk response to sleep problems,” Walker stated. “Sleeping pills sedate the brain, rather than help it sleep naturally. We must find better treatments for restoring healthy sleep in older adults, and that is now one of our dedicated research missions.”
It’s no secret that many of our common grocery store staples come with a long list of ingredients. While bread, for example, might only require a few ingredients when homemade, a loaf of sandwich bread from the store will often contain significantly more to keep it shelf-stable.
We’re not here to say that you should always bake your own bread ― we get that’s not really an option in most of our modern lives. But we do think you should know what’s showing up on your ingredient labels.
Here are 20 common ingredients that we bet are in your pantry right now (assuming that you’ve got a well-stocked pantry).
- Sodium Phosphate is a sodium salt of phosphoric acid and is a common additive in processed meat. It helps keep meat moist, which is one quality a lot of people want in their ham. It can also be used as a texturizer, an emulsifier or a leavening agent.
- Sodium Erythorbate is the sodium salt of erythorbic acid. It is a food additive used to keep food fresh.
- Sodium Nitrite is used as a preservative to fight the growth of harmful bacteria. Chances are you’ve probably heard about sodium nitrite and how you’re supposed to stay away from it. Nitrites have been linked to cancer.
- Potassium Lactate is a mineral salt that is used as a flavoring agent and a humectant, which means it helps food retain moisture.
- Sodium Diacetate is a salt of acetic acid. It is a food preservative used as an antimicrobial agent.
- Dextrose is a simple sugar derived from corn. It is used widely in packaged foods as a sweetener.
- Corn Syrup is an ingredient we all know by now. It’s a sweetener made from the starch of corn that shows up in a lot of our food because it’s cheap, which means we’re probably eating more sugar than we want to think.
- Xanthan Gum is fermented by plant-loving bacteria ― for example, it aids the bacteria that grows on broccoli. It also happens to be a very popular food additive, showing up in foods from salad dressings to baked goods. It’s often used as a thickening and emulsifying agent.
- Polysorbate 80 is used as an emulsifier in foods and cosmetics. It’s sometimes added to soft serve to prevent milk proteins from completely coating the fat droplets. This allows the soft serve to bind and locks air into the mixture.
- Calcium Sulfate is an acidity regulator and flour-stabilizing agent. That means it shows up in pastas and cereals. It’s also used to add calcium to foods, such as tofu.
- Sodium Benzoate is the sodium salt of benzoic acid. It inhibits growth of bacteria, mold and yeast ― and shows up in anything from sodas to pickles.
- Dimethyl Dicarbonate is a chemical used to preserve beverages. If you like wine, you’re getting your fill of this preservative.
- Butylated Hydroxyanisole, also known as BHA, is a food additive that the National Institutes of Health says is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. It shows up in a host of foods, including chewing gum and potato chips.
- Mono- and diglycerides come from fatty acids. They’re used as another emulsifier. They help combine ingredients containing fat with ingredients containing water (because the two don’t normally merge well on their own).
- Carrageenan is a carbohydrate extracted from red seaweed. It’s used for its gelling, stabilizing and thickening properties. And it is found in products from eggnog to soy milk to infant formulas to toothpaste.
- Guar gum is made from the endosperm of the guar bean. It’s used as a thickening agent. The use of it in diet pills was banned in the 1980s because it was dangerous, but small amounts of it have been established as safe.
- Cellulose gum comes from the cell walls of plants such as wood pulp and cottonseeds. It’s a thickener that is commonly used in the food industry and adds to the mouthfeel and texture of a product.
- Carnauba wax is made from the leaves of the palm tree. It’s used to provide a glossy, waxen sheen to foods like fruit chews, just like it does for cars (in automobile waxes), shoes (in the polish), dental floss, surf boards and floors.
- Yellow 5, also known as tartrazine, is most famously responsible for the yellow color of Mountain Dew. It’s a synthetic yellow dye that was once believed to negatively affect the sperm count in men, and is now believed to exacerbate children with ADHD.
- Red 40 is an azo food dye that can cause allergic reactions in some people.