You may or may not have heard of the "short sleep gene" before. But what is it, really? Is it a real thing? Do doctors in Australia recognise it? How does it biologically work? And what can someone do if they think they have a short sleep gene? Let's take a closer look.
Is the 'short sleep gene' real?
The short answer is that we don't really know for sure but studies have found that a rare mutation of the DEC2 gene which plays an important role in the body's circadian timing system can lead people to need less sleep. The term "short sleep gene" is just a nickname for this gene variant that has been associated with shorter sleep duration. It's has been estimated that this gene actually only exists in 3% of people and that they in general can function quite well on less sleep (under 6 hours in fact).
However, it's important to note that this gene variant is rare an there are many factors that determines how much sleep a person needs. There are other genetic and environmental factors at play for the other 97% of us.
If you are only getting 6 hours or less sleep per night then its more than likely you are not getting enough sleep than you are to have this rare gene.
It can also be known or defined as Familial Natural Short Sleepers (FNSS) who are genetically wired to have lifelong reduction in nightly sleep duration without evident consequence on cognitive demise, implying that they may have better sleep quality.
Two new mutations are still being researched.
Do doctors in Australia recognise the 'short sleep gene?'
Some doctors may be aware of the term and its implications, but there is no official recognition of the "short sleep gene" by the medical community at large in Australia.
How does the 'short sleep gene' work, biologically?
We do know that the gene variant associated with shorter sleep duration is found in a region of the genome that regulates circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are our natural 24-hour biological clock that governs things like our sleeping patterns and energy levels throughout the day. So it's possible that this gene variant disrupts our natural circadian rhythms, leading to shorter sleep duration. However, more research is needed to confirm this theory.
What can someone do if they think they have a short sleep gene?'
If you think you might have a short sleep gene, there are a few things you can do. First, you can talk to your doctor about your concerns and ask if there is anything they can do to confirm this. Alternatively, you can reach out to a genetics counselor to discuss your options for further testing and treatment.
The bottom line is that we don't really know much about the 'short sleep gene' at this point. However, if you think you might have it, there is a strong chance you are just not getting enough sleep as it is very rare however talk to your doctor to be sure.