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Sleep Problems: What Keeps A Person Awake All Night May Cause Obesity, Schizophrenia & Restless Leg Syndrome

Update Date: Jan 24, 2017 07:00 AM EST

Sleepless nights are more than just having a stressful event during the day. Scientists have identified genes that are responsible for sleep problems, obesity, schizophrenia and restless leg syndrome. In the past, experts have already known genes that cause narcolepsy and sleep apnea, but this is the first time genetic materials are linked to insomnia.

The study titled "Genome-Wide Association Analyses Of Sleep Disturbance Traits Identify New Loci And Highlights Shared Genetics With Neuropsychiatric And Metabolic Traits" looked into sleep problems and excessive daytime sleepiness of 112,586 adults in Europe. All subjects who participated in the UK Biobank study had their genes mapped out, including weight, chronic conditions and other diseases.

The gene that was linked to sleep problem specifically insomnia was strongly related to depression, insulin resistance and restless legs syndrome. However, those individuals sleeping longer than the average are also on risk of schizophrenia, while excessive daytime sleepiness was linked to obesity.

Richa Saxena, co-author and assistant professor of anaesthesia at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, clarifies that not everyone who has sleep problems has a higher risk for obesity, restless legs syndrome or schizophrenia. The research does not determine if disturbed sleep causes the conditions or vice versa.

Saxena believes that the new study is a long way off from managing any sleep problems. Around 30 percent of the global population has sleep problems. In the United States, there are ten percent who are clinically diagnosed to have insomnia.

Meanwhile, Nick Littlehales, sports sleep coach, debunks the idea that everyone should sleep at least eight hours at night.  The author of "Sleep: The Myth of 8 Hours" believes in short naps. He suggests that people should take a 30-minute nap whenever they feel drowsy in the daytime so they can avoid sleep problems at night.

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