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How Genetics Impact Your Sleep Deprivation

22 January, 2021 Sanchita Gupta

Having trouble in sleeping? Feeling drowsy even after getting enough sleep? Here in this article, we are going to discuss about the reduced quantity and quality of sleep and such devastated sleeping patterns that some of us deal with regularly.

What is Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is not a disease. It is a term which states a condition in which humans adapt a lower quantity of sleep requirement in their daily life.

Individuals suffering from this condition may experience micro sleeps about which they might not be aware of. Micro sleep is a small period of sleep that the sufferer takes during the working hours of the day. It is not divided in age groups.

Anyone suffering from insomnia, sleep apnea, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, cancer, heart disease, strokes, frequent changes in schedule or any such relatable causes may be haunted by Sleep deprivation.

Symptoms of the same can be drowsiness, inability in concentrate/ memorizing, reduced physical energy. It may result in hallucination, increased risk of heart disease/stroke/asthma attack; severe mood swings and a like.

If you are experiencing any of these even at the slightest level, do contact your doctor and consult them regarding your symptoms. Higher level of sleep deprivation requires to be diagnosed by a sleep test - Polysomnography, which will examine the oxygen level in your blood, brain waves and other vital information the entire night while you’re sleeping.

Is your sleep deprivation genetic?

Genetic diseases are caused by the combination of genes received from both parents of an individual. Various studies show that an individual may suffer from sleep deprivation because of their genes as well.

1. Fatal familial insomnia (FFI): It is one of the most rare genetic disorders that causes inability to sleep initiating from mild to worsened effects on a human’s mental and physical health. It is an abnormal variant in the PRPN (Prion-related protein gene) which causes FFI. It may also occur randomly without a variant PRPN.


  • Insomnia is the very first symptom but in some individuals it may be present with progressive dementia which affects the thoughts, memory and language of an individual.
  • Hallucination can occur and there may be changes in the behavior of the sufferer.
  • Diplopia (double vision), Nystagmus (weird eye movements), Dysphagia (swallowing problem) and Ataxia (trouble coordinating voluntary movements).

Molecular genetic testing available at specialized laboratories can identify the abnormal variant in the PFPN. There is no cure for FFI but a team of specialists with their efforts plan a series of treatments. Genetic counseling is one of the vital forms to determine the disorder in an affected individual and their family.

2. Familial advanced sleep-phase syndrome (FASPS): Individuals suffering from FASPS experience advanced levels of sleeping patterns. They wake up and fall asleep 4-6 hours earlier than the average number of population. They also perform a shorter i.e. 22 hours circadian period (the natural cycle of physical, mental and behavior changes that a body goes through in 24 hours) than others. This implies that FASPS patients need to offset and onset delay their sleep everyday to entrain 24hours circadian period.


  • Difficulty in staying awake until the normal bedtime or falling asleep early in the evening.
  • Cannot stay in bed till the desired waking up time which can be stated as early morning insomnia.

Measuring the patient’s onset and offset sleep and instigating a questionnaire related to their sleeping pattern. Sleep specialists may also conduct sleep test and enquire about the age and patient’s family history.

3. Narcolepsy: It is a neurological disorder which causes sleep disablement. Many cases are caused by a lack of hypocretin /orexin (hormones) that regulates sleep. This causes excessive weakness and makes it difficult to control muscles. It usually occurs between the age group of 15-25 but it can show up at any age. Individuals having family history with narcolepsy are highly risked and chances of this disorder are 20-40 times more.


  • Narcolepsy with cataplexy causes slurred speech and total body collapse may often occur due to intense emotions.
  • Hallucinations are often frightening and vivid. If it happens while sleeping, it is said to be Hypnagogic hallucination and while you’re awake, it can be called Hypnopompic hallucination.
  • Sleep paralysis may usually happen for few seconds and sometimes may last several minutes. It will unable an individual to move while falling sleep.

Recording a track of your sleep or sleep test i.e. Polysomnogram will do a lot to recognize your disorder on a large scale. Multiple sleep latency tests (MSLT) are done in a laboratory at the day time to measure your tendency to fall asleep.

Sleep Deprivation can be of various types and when it comes to genetic sleep deprivation, specialists are still researching about it as sleep is the most mysterious fundamental phenomenon.

Through the above sight and studies, we are now known that genes may affect our sleep. Sleep is the most important function since it provides rest to the human system because our internal organs require sleep for effective working. If you think you need help regarding your sleep, do take measures, practice healthy habits like exercising, making a sleep schedule, engaging yourself in meditation and in severe cases consult a doctor.


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