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New research explores 'early bird' and 'night owl' sleep patterns

Washington, DC -- Are you annoyed by cheerful "morning people?" Do you ever wonder how "night owls" can keep going? Most of us ask these questions because we are in between these two extremes, and take a while to get going early in the morning and tire long before midnight. This entire spectrum reflects the broad, normal variation in sleep patterns in humans that is rooted in the very genetic foundations of how our body works. Because these variations occur within our population and differ with age, the presumption exists that the differences in sleep patterns are controlled by complex mechanisms with contributions from multiple genes and influenced by environmental factors.

Linking our genetic make-up and sleep related disorders require data that compare genetic differences that might explain the basis of sleep disorders. Knowing what causes these disorders is important -- getting a good night sleep is now a challenge for some 50 to 70 millions American of all ages. A 2002 National Sleep Foundation annual survey reported that nearly 40 percent of adults 30 to 64 years old, and 44 percent of those age 18 to 29, reported that daytime sleepiness is so severe that it interferes with work and social functioning at least a few days each month. Excessive daytime sleepiness has been blamed on interference in cognitive functioning, motor vehicle crashes (especially at night), poor job performance and reduced productivity. While researchers have learned much about the basic mechanism underlying the control of sleep and its importance on our daily function and health, they have only just begun to examine the complex genetic and environmental interactions that shape sleep and health.

A New Study

An important step in this research is a new study that involved three different strains of inbred laboratory rats and measurements of their movement and continuous sleep in controlled environmental chambers for three days and nights. The study exa
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Contact: Donna Krupa
djkrupa1@aol.com
703-527-7357
American Physiological Society
19-Apr-2004


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