Let’s face it. Some of us have definitely been up until 4 a.m. for no good reason. Then, when we finally get to sleep, we never want to wake up when the morning comes. Some people blame bad habits; some people blame irresponsibility. But, it turns out that research shows some people may actually be genetically predisposed to night-owl tendencies.
In some research results published by Cell last week, some people have circadian rhythms that have been programmed to run slower than normal due to the mutation of a specific gene. The CRY1 gene, which deals with the circadian clock of our bodies, is the determining factor to when we fall asleep and when we wake up.
People that carry the gene typically experience delays in their sleep cycles by about two to two and a half hours as opposed to normal body clocks. Typically, people who stay up into the late hours of the night are diagnosed at sleep clinics with delayed sleep phase disorder, which research shows affects up to 10 percent of people.
Research associate Michael Young at the Laboratory of Genetics at The Rockefeller University said, “It’s as if these people have perpetual jet lag, moving eastward every day… in the morning, they’re not ready for the next day to arrive.”
Young’s research was originally conducted on the sleep cycles of fruit flies, and he along with other colleagues connected with researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College to understand their results on a deeper molecular level. Since the circadian clock exists in all organisms and a fundamental part of functioning life, it doesn’t differ from flies to humans. People who suffer from DSPD experience this CRY1 mutation, and their body clock is essentially inhibited from functioning accurately or at its best.
While it does sound sort of hopeless thinking that this genetic mutation is deep in your body and can’t be fixed, don’t worry too much. There are ways to help manage your DSPD, especially considering how the circadian clock can be influenced by your environment. Common suggestions include light therapy or sleep aids like melatonin.
So next time you’re stuck late at night scrolling through Instagram or staring at the ceiling, you can blame your Great Aunt Gladys instead of that third cup of coffee.