The Role of Genetics in improving Sleep: The Science Behind Sleep Disorders and Quality of Sleep Health

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The Role of Genetics in improving Sleep: The Science Behind Sleep Disorders and Quality of Sleep Health


  1. Intro
  2. Factors affecting Sleep
  3. 5 Genes linked to Sleep
  4. How to improve Sleep
  5. DNA Health Test
  6. Conclusion

In 30 seconds...Unlock the secrets of sleep through the lens of genetics. Did you know genes like PER2, CRY1, and DEC2 play pivotal roles in determining if you're a night owl, an early riser, or someone who thrives on minimal sleep? Dive into the fascinating interplay between DNA and slumber, from sleep duration to the mysteries of insomnia. Discover how your genetic blueprint might be the key to understanding, and optimising, your nightly rest.


Sleep is an essential part of human life, playing a crucial role in maintaining overall health and well-being. However, the quality and duration of sleep can vary significantly among individuals. Emerging research has highlighted the influence of genetic factors on sleep patterns and disorders, with some people having a genetic predisposition towards certain sleep disorders. This article aims to delve into the fascinating world of sleep genetics, exploring how our genes can affect our sleep and what this means for our health.

What are Sleep Genetics?

Sleep genetics is a rapidly growing field of research that explores the genetic factors influencing sleep patterns and disorders. It is now understood that your genetic makeup plays an integral role in determining your sleep duration, quality, and even your susceptibility to sleep disorders such as insomnia.

Science has discovered certain genetic markers associated with these sleep traits, enabling researchers to better understand the biological mechanisms that govern our sleep. The advent of sleep DNA testing has made it possible to identify these genetic markers, providing valuable insights into an individual's sleep behaviour and potential predispositions to sleep disorders.

The Genetic Factors Affecting Sleep

Several genetic factors can impact various aspects of sleep. These include the production of certain hormones and neurotransmitters, blood sugar levels and insulin response, and the presence of specific components in foods.

Serotonin and Melatonin Production

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that exerts a calming effect on the brain, and it serves as a precursor to melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycles. Certain nutrients, such as tryptophan, assist in the production of serotonin. Darkness then stimulates the conversion of serotonin to melatonin, which helps us sleep. Foods rich in tryptophan, such as turkey, chicken, nuts, seeds, and dairy products, can support the body's natural production of sleep-inducing hormones.

Blood Sugar Levels and Insulin Response

Consuming high glycemic index foods, like sugary snacks or refined carbohydrates, can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. This in turn triggers a surge in insulin to regulate glucose, potentially disrupting sleep by promoting wakefulness and affecting sleep architecture.

Sleep-Disruptive Components

Certain components present in foods can interfere with sleep quality. Caffeine, a stimulant found in coffee, tea, and some sodas, can delay sleep onset and reduce sleep duration. Alcohol, while initially inducing drowsiness, can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to fragmented and less restorative sleep.

5 Key Genes Linked to Sleep

Our DNA is like a blueprint, with each gene providing specific instructions on how our body functions. When it comes to sleep, several genes stand out, each playing a pivotal role in determining our sleep patterns.

PER2: The Timekeeper

The PER2 gene acts as our body's internal alarm clock. Deep within our DNA, it helps regulate our circadian rhythms. Mutations in this gene can shift our sleep patterns, turning some of us into night owls and others into early risers.

CRY1: The Night Owl

The CRY1 gene is responsible for those of us who find ourselves most active during the late hours. Variants in this gene can push our sleep phase later, making us prone to late-night activities, whether it's reading a captivating book or catching up on our favourite shows.

DEC2: The Short Sleeper

You know those people who seem to thrive on just a few hours of sleep? They might have the DEC2 gene to thank. This gene allows some individuals to feel refreshed and alert with fewer hours of sleep than most, making many of us envious.

ADRB1: The Early Bird

The ADRB1 gene is for those who rise with the sun, feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day. Individuals with specific mutations in this gene often require less sleep, waking up rejuvenated and energetic.

CLOCK: The Rhythm Regulator

True to its name, the CLOCK gene plays a crucial role in synchronising our sleep-wake cycle with our environment. However, slight variations in this gene can disrupt this balance, potentially leading to sleep disorders like insomnia.

How to improve Sleep? Optimisation Solutions from Science

Understanding our genetic predisposition can be empowering. It's like having a roadmap to better sleep. So, what can we do with this knowledge?

1. Personalised Sleep Regimen

By understanding your genetic makeup, you can tailor your sleep routine. For instance, if you have a mutation in the CRY1 gene, you might benefit from a bedtime routine that caters to night owls.

2. The Impact of Blue Light

Modern life exposes us to an array of digital screens, emitting blue light that can interfere with our natural sleep-wake cycle. Reducing exposure to blue light, especially during the evening, can significantly improve sleep quality. Companies like Red Light Rising offer solutions to counteract the effects of blue light, promoting better sleep.

3. Dietary Adjustments

Remember the connection between serotonin, melatonin, and sleep? Consuming foods rich in tryptophan can boost serotonin levels, paving the way for a restful night. These include:

  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Dairy products

4. Supplements

If you're struggling with sleep, certain supplements might help. For instance:

  • Melatonin: A natural hormone that regulates sleep.
  • Magnesium: Known to relax muscles and aid in sleep.
  • Valerian Root: An age-old remedy for insomnia.

4.b Dr. Andrew Huberman's Sleep Supplements

If you're struggling with sleep, certain supplements might come to your rescue. Dr. Andrew Huberman, a renowned neurobiologist, suggests the following might help:

  • Melatonin: A natural hormone that regulates sleep.
  • Magnesium Glycinate: Taken 2-3 hours before sleep, it can aid in relaxation and sleep quality.
  • Theanine: Ranges between 200-400mg and is known to promote relaxation without drowsiness.
  • Apigenin: A natural compound found in many plants, taken at 50mg, can support sleep.
  • Glycine: Taken at 2 grams every 3rd or 4th night, it can enhance sleep quality.

DNA and Epigenetic Health Tests for Sleep

Curious about your sleep genes? Consider taking a DNA Health Test or a more comprehensive DNA + Epigenetic Health Test. These tests can provide a treasure trove of information, helping you understand your unique sleep needs.

Complexity of Sleep Duration Genetics

Sleep duration genetics is a fascinating area of study. Research has found that certain genes can influence how long you sleep. For instance, a study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), identified a shared mutation of the ADRB1 gene in a family that reported sleeping less than six and a half hours each night without feeling any negative effects. This mutation has been dubbed the "natural short sleep trait."

On the other hand, genes associated with longer sleep duration have also been identified. For instance, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) found 126 variations in 80 different genes that could be reasonably linked to sleep duration, further affirming the connection between sleep and genetics.

Insomnia Genetics

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder characterised by difficulty falling or staying asleep. Studies have found multiple genes connected to insomnia. These genes are tied to the processes that regulate your sleep-wake cycle, affecting hormones and neurotransmitters involved in your circadian rhythm, such as serotonin, adenosine, GABA, and hypocretin/orexin.

The genetic risk of insomnia can be likened to that of diabetes. People with a family history of diabetes need to be more cautious about their diet, sugar intake, and other variables that may increase their risk of diabetes. Similarly, those with a family history of insomnia may need to be more diligent about practising good sleep hygiene and taking preventive measures to avoid insomnia.

Circadian Rhythm Genetics: The Body's Internal Clock

The circadian rhythm is our body's internal clock that regulates our sleep-wake cycle, telling us when to sleep and when to wake up. Studies have linked several genes to the regulation of the circadian rhythm, including PER3, DEC2, and TIMELESS. Mutations in these genes can lead to circadian rhythm sleep disorders, such as advanced sleep phase syndrome, delayed sleep phase syndrome, and irregular sleep-wake rhythm disorder.

Sleep Quality and Genetics: A Two-Way Street

Just as your genes can influence your sleep quality, the reverse is also true - your sleep quality can impact your genetic expression. Lack of sleep can cause damage to your DNA, impairing its ability to carry out its vital functions. Over time, this can result in serious physical and mental health complications, such as an increased risk of cancer, diminished psychological health, or impaired judgement.


The study of sleep genetics offers exciting insights into the complex interplay between our genes and our sleep. While our genetic makeup can predispose us to certain sleep traits and disorders, there are steps we can take to mitigate these risks and promote better sleep health. By understanding how our genes influence our sleep, we can make informed decisions about our lifestyle and habits to ensure we get the restful sleep we need for optimal health and well-being.


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