A new study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, identified seven genes that researchers say increase our tendency towards insomnia.
For some people, fighting insomnia can be as simple as changing what we eat or what we wear (or don’t wear) to bed. But if you feel like you’ve tried every trick in the book and still can’t get to sleep or stay asleep at night, your genes could be partially to blame.
The study looked at 113,006 people and found seven genes that contribute to insomnia. One in particular has already been linked to Periodic Limb Movements of Sleep andRestless Legs Syndrome, two common sleep disorders.
What’s even more interesting is that these genes aren’t only linked to sleep disorders. They’re also associated with psychological issues, like anxiety and depression. Study author and PhD student Anke Hammerschlag said in a press release, “This is an interesting finding, because these characteristics tend to go hand in hand with insomnia. We now know that this is partly due to the shared genetic basis.”
These findings suggest that we need to change the way we think about insomnia and its treatment. Lead researcher Eus Van Someren explains, “Insomnia is all too often dismissed as being ‘all in your head.’ Our research brings a new perspective. Insomnia is also in the genes.”
Instead of treating insomnia as a psychological issue, Van Someren says this study shows that we should be looking at how the makeup of our brains impacts insomnia.
Sleep issues also seem to be different for men and women, with far more women suffering from insomnia. Lead study author, professor Danielle Posthuma says that the results also showed that, “different biological mechanisms may lead to insomnia in men and women.” That genetic difference may explain the different rates of insomnia by gender. They found that 33 percent of women they studied had insomnia, while it hit only 24 percent of men.
If you do suffer from insomnia, it can’t hurt to try natural remedies like changing your diet,sleeping naked or other natural sleep aids. These results don’t mean that we can’t try to treat our insomnia at home. What they do mean is that if these natural remedies don’t work for you, you shouldn’t beat yourself up. Your genes could be to blame, and researchers are now able to work on treatments that affect the cause, not just heal the symptoms.