‘Insomnia Gene' Discovery Offers Hope For Sleep Deprivation Treatment
Scientists have discovered a faulty gene that causes insomnia in fruit flies and hope their discovery will bring them a step closer to curing sleep disturbances in humans.
Researchers from the Rockefeller University, New York, identified a genetic mutation in fruit flies and found that carriers slept two thirds less than normal.
The experts claim that the 'insomnia gene' works by eliminating specific proteins in the neurons of the brain that help regulate and bring on sleep.
If this degradation neuron pathway, called Cul3, is correct, it will be the first time that sleep has been linked specific proteins.
However, if you are struggling to see the connection between fruit flies and humans – researchers say that although there is little common ground in lifestyle, the mechanisms of sleep between flies and humans are quite similar.
Scientists cloned and tested the faulty gene, nicknamed the ‘insomniac’, in more than 20,000 fruit flies and discovered an entirely new sleep mechanism altogether.
Researchers used an infrared beam to see when the flies fell asleep. They found that gene carriers slept for just 317 minutes a night compared to the average 927 minutes. They also discovered that flies with the insomnia gene napped for shorter periods and woke up more frequently.
“The results showed a dramatic loss of both the duration of the flies’ sleep and their ability to remain asleep after they dozed off,” Nicholas Stavropoulos from the study, said in a statement.
“But what’s especially interesting is that the insomniac gene may function through homeostatic mechanisms. These are distinct from the well-studied circadian clock pathways linked to sleep, and have an effect on the body regardless of the time of day.”
Looking into the link between lifespan and insomnia, scientists challenged the existing theory that fruit flies with the faulty gene lived two thirds shorter than normal flies. They found that when they eliminated the gene from the neuron, the flies still slept poorly, but lived just as long.
“This suggests that reduced sleep can be ‘uncoupled’ from reduced lifespan, supporting the idea that some disruptions of sleep do not affect overall health, at least as far as lifespan is concerned,” Stavropoulos added in the statement.
10 Ways To Beat Insomnia
Expert tips from Cognitive Therapist <strong><a href="http://lesleymccall.co.uk/" target="_hplink">Lesley McCall</a></strong>.
Drown It Out
"If you want to drown out internal chatter try holding the tip of your tongue towards the roof of your mouth without actually touching it until the chatter stops."
Wiggle Your Toes
"It sounds simple (and a little silly) but wriggling your toes while lying in bed until you feel sleepy, helps the body relax."
Wait For The Right Moment
"Only go to bed when you feel tired. If you have been in bed for longer than 30 minutes and you are still awake, get up and do something boring until you feel sleepy again. Don't do something stimulating such as watch TV or eat, as this will send your unconscious the wrong message - that it gets rewarded for not sleeping."
Do A 'Brain Dump'
"Many of us go to bed with worries on our mind that can keep us awake - so get rid of them. Do a 'brain dump' before bed. Spend 10 minutes writing down what is on your mind or compile a 'to-do' list. Keep writing even if you are only jotting down sort notes or long scribbles."
"Try and relax for 30 minutes before bed to ensure you get good quality sleep - because remember, it's not just the quantity but quality of your sleep that matters. Try not to take the stress of the day into sleep with you as this will mean that the REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is needed for de- stressing the mind, will increase, leaving less time for the slow wave sleep, which refreshes us."
"Don't sleep or nap during the day - it confuses you body clock and will make it harder for you to drift off in the evening."
Have A Bath
"Have a warm bath before bedtime. The core drop in temperature when you get out will help you to drift into a deep sleep."
"Be aware of what you eat. Try and have no caffeine after midday, eat regular meals and remember that carbohydrates will help you feel sleepy."
"Exercise is an excellent stress buster - but make sure you leave at least three hours between exercise and sleep, to give your body enough time to wind down."
Swtich Off (Everything)
"Reteach your brain to associate bed with sleep. This means eliminating computers, smartphones or TV's from the bedroom."