Sweet dreams Deep Sleep & Genetics

If you’ve always suspected that you feel more sleepy than others after missing out on a night of sleep, you might not be imagining things. Your genetics may be involved.


How it works

Deep sleep is the phase of sleep when it’s hardest to wake up. It occurs right before the REM stage of sleep and may play a role in transferring the day’s events into longer-term memories. In deep sleep, your brain cells produce slow moving waves of electrical activity called delta waves.

The genetic link

Scientists have identified a genetic variant that may explain why some people feel more tired the longer they’re awake. A certain genetic variant, or difference, in the ADA gene may contribute to some people having stronger delta waves. People with one or more copy of this genetic variant may also feel more sleepy after a night of missed sleep than others.

sleep pressure

Did you know?

The longer we stay awake, the sleepier we get. This is sometimes called sleep pressure. A molecule called adenosine builds up the longer we stay awake, causing us to feel sleepy. Especially deep sleepers tend to feel sleepier than others after a night of missed sleep. However, one study found that taking naps eliminated this difference in sleepiness. Siesta, anyone?

Explore more

Learning about deep sleep can be an eye-opening experience, even for folks who snoozed their way through science class. If you’ve always suspected you feel more sleepy than others after missing a night of sleep, 23andMe’s Health + Ancestry Service may offer deeper insights. Order a kit, send us some spit, and find out how your genetics may affect your deep sleep.

Health + Ancestry Service Kit

Health + Ancestry Service

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References

23andMe Blog (2017, May 17). “Sleepy Time.” Retrieved November 2, 2018, from https://blog.23andme.com/23andme-and-you/sleepy-time/.

23andMe Blog (2017, October 5). “Nobel Worthy Sleep Science.” Retrieved November 2, 2018, from https://blog.23andme.com/23andme-research/nobel-worthy-sleep-science/.

Bachmann V et al. (2012). “Functional ADA polymorphism increases sleep depth and reduces vigilant attention in humans.” Cereb Cortex. 22(4):962-70.

Cantero JL et al. (2002). “Human alpha oscillations in wakefulness, drowsiness period, and REM sleep: different electroencephalographic phenomena within the alpha band.” Neurophysiol Clin. 32(1):54-71.

Dijk DJ. (2009). “Regulation and functional correlates of slow wave sleep.” J Clin Sleep Med. 5(2 Suppl):S6-15

Ermis U et al. (2010). “Arousal thresholds during human tonic and phasic REM sleep.” J Sleep Res. 19(3):400-6.

Landolt HP et al. (1995). “Caffeine reduces low-frequency delta activity in the human sleep EEG.” Neuropsychopharmacology. 12(3):229-38.

Mander BA et al. (2013). “Prefrontal atrophy, disrupted NREM slow waves and impaired hippocampal-dependent memory in aging.” Nat Neurosci. 16(3):357-64.

Mazzotti DR et al. (2011). “Effects of the adenosine deaminase polymorphism and caffeine intake on sleep parameters in a large population sample.” Sleep. 34(3):399-402.

Mazzotti DR et al. (2012). “Adenosine deaminase polymorphism affects sleep EEG spectral power in a large epidemiological sample.” PLoS One. 7(8):e44154.

Reichert CF et al. (2014). “Insights into behavioral vulnerability to differential sleep pressure and circadian phase from a functional ADA polymorphism.” J Biol Rhythms. 29(2):119-30.

Reichert CF et al. (2016). “Sleep-Wake Regulation and Its Impact on Working Memory Performance: The Role of Adenosine.” Biology (Basel). 5(1).