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article imageWhy do some people need a day time nap? The science of siestas

By Tim Sandle     Feb 25, 2021 in Science
There is, new research reveals, a scientific basis for day time napping, and the answer lies in genetics. A study has found 123 regions within the human genome connected with daytime napping. There are three different mechanisms that promote napping.
If you have ever wondered why one person feels the need for a daytime nap, whereas another person can charge on through the course of the day, then the answer rests in the genes. The study which comes from the Massachusetts General Hospital, also finds there are other short burst sleep linked genes that function to regulate other aspects of sleep. The findings contribute to the science of siestas.
The study itself is said to be the largest ever conducted into sleeping and rest habits, in order to locate the gene regions that govern the tendency to sleep during the day. From this there is some medical evidence associating napping during the day to cardiometabolic health.
The process involved undertaking a genome-wide association study. This enabled researchers to perform rapid scanning of complete sets of genomes from a large number of people. Typically this approach seeks to find associations between single-nucleotide polymorphisms and traits like major human diseases. The information was drawn from the UK Biobank.
From the study, most people can be grouped as follows:
Sleep propensity: Some people need more shut-eye than others.
Disrupted sleep: A daytime nap can help make up for poor quality slumber the night before.
Early morning awakening: People who rise early may "catch up" on sleep with a nap.
The study also required selected individuals to indicated whether or not they nap during the day, and, if so, how often they do so. Following this, some of the participants were equipped with accelerometers (to assess their activity levels).
This led to the conclusion that daytime napping is biologically driven, so while it is the norm within some cultures, the need for daytime napping (or not) is a product of an individual's genes.
The research findings appear in the journal Nature Communications, under the title "Genetic determinants of daytime napping and effects on cardiometabolic health."
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