Finally, a possible explanation for your sleep frustration! An international group of scientists says that the common sleep disorder, insomnia, could be a part of your genetic makeup. They associate seven different genes with the risk of insomnia. This brand new information could make developing new treatments way easier in the years to come.
Insomnia is widely believed to be a psychological condition. The new study, published by Nature Genetics, proves that this may not be the case for all of the troubled sleepers of the world.
And there are a lot! Insomnia is one of the most frequent health complaints to doctors and specialists.
Several sleep struggles fall under the definition of insomnia, according to the Mayo Clinic:
- Insomnia makes it hard to fall asleep
- Insomnia makes it hard to stay asleep
- Insomnia causes you to wake up too early
Professors Danielle Posthuma and Eus Van Someren led this global research. They studied more than 113,000 people to create a potentially sleep-altering genetic profile.
Of the seven genes scientists linked with insomnia, at least one (MEIS1) is associated with other sleep disorders: Periodic Limb Movements of Sleep (PLMS) and Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS).
The genes also overlap with other traits that, not surprisingly, are also associated with insomnia. Such traits include anxiety, depression and neuroticism.
Lastly, women are more susceptible to these genetic markers than men. Roughly 33 percent of women in the sample reported suffering from insomnia, compared to just 24 percent of men. While the study ties seven genes to insomnia, not all patients will have all seven genes. The makeup also varies between men and women.
Professor Posthuma is quoted in Science Daily, saying, “Part of the genetic variants turned out to be different. This suggests that, for some part, different biological mechanisms may lead to insomnia in men and women,” she said.
Scientists are hopeful this information can be used to give thousands and thousands of people a good night’s sleep.
The Symptoms Of Insomnia
By now, you’ve probably come to the conclusion that you’re one of the millions with insomnia. But insomnia is very different from simply not getting enough shut-eye.
Common symptoms of insomnia include:
- Difficulty paying attention or remembering tasks
- More errors and accidents
- Constantly worrying about sleep
- Irritability or depression
Insomnia can be short-term, caused by stress or a traumatic experience. Chronic insomnia lasts much longer. Possible causes include your work schedule, poor sleep habits and eating too much late in the evening. Insomnia may also be linked to other medical conditions.
Treatments For Insomnia
Cross your fingers in hopes that this new research leads to a miracle cure. Until that happens, you should talk to your doctor about possible treatments. Still, you can infer some possible solutions from what science has already determined.
For one, science says exercise is great medicine for insomnia! In one study, women with insomnia had more energy and were less depressed after exercise. And it seems that being physically active lowers your risk of insomnia in the first place.
And cognitive behavioral therapy can help you eliminate the negative thoughts that keep you awake at night, and develop good sleep habits.
Prescription medications, over-the-counter pills and alternative medicines are all options as well, but you should consult with your doctor first. Some over-the-counter pills are also known to make you drowsy.
Whether you carry the “insomnia genes” or not, try to get seven to eight hours of sleep each and every night. And allow yourself to feel a little relief knowing insomnia could be in your blood—not your head!