Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Don't tell me when to sleep!"

With his taste for unceasing globe-trotting adventures, Dustin Hoffman’s character from "Outbreak" may belong to the group of genetically superior people in our society who can function perfectly well with minimal amounts of sleep. I don’t know whether to look at these super-humans with jealousy or pity, but a 68-year-old woman noticed how peculiar her sleeping habits were and volunteered for sleep research. Her nightly routine consisted of going to sleep at 10 PM and waking up at 4 AM. Researchers at UC San Francisco examined the woman’s DNA and her sleep variable gene, called DEC2.

This gene was inserted in mice and the researchers discovered that the mice functioned normally despite fewer sleep in comparison to the control group that did not receive the DEC2 variation.

Stanford researchers also got involved with the project, posing two questions. They asked whether sleep among the insomniac mice were deeper than those without the DEC2 gene. Upon this inquiry, they discovered that the insomniac’s mice sleep were no different than the control group. The Stanford researchers also asked whether interrupted sleep patterns among the two groups affected waking performance, and they found out that the mice with the DEC2 variation were more robust in their physical activities.

More exciting questions are yet to be answered. The researchers want to explore whether people with sleep variations have different moods and temperaments. “Do they have more positive outlooks or are they less depressed? Are they more driven, and could that explain why they sleep less?”

Perhaps we can help by sending our professor and SCAs over to the lab for research.

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