Are you a night owl?

Have you stayed awake for hours at night, struggling for some much-needed sleep? Well, anxiety or stress need not be blamed every time, for researchers have found a genetic mutation responsible for making you a ‘night owl’.

A genetic mutation called the “after-hours gene” may explain why some people are night owls, it is revealed in the journal Science on Friday. The ‘night owl syndrome’ makes it quite difficult to function in a world where the normal pattern dictates night as the time for sleep.

But the latest discovery could also hold clues for pharmacologists working to develop drugs to help people adjust to shift work or jet lag, reports the Telegraph.

There are further implications for the study of causes of some psychiatric disorders.

The altered gene, named “after hours” or Afh, is a variant of a gene called Fbxl3, which had not been linked to the body clock that keeps our metabolism, digestion and sleep patterns in tune with the rising and setting of the Sun.

By monitoring laboratory mice, scientists noticed that instead of following the typical 24-hour pattern some animals had body clocks that stretched to a 27-hour day.

It was then discovered that their DNA had the after-hours version of the Fbxl3 gene, one of a large family that controls the breakdown of specific proteins within body cells.

In other research, scientists have identified a part of the brain that affects how we deal with seasonal change. The research will help our understanding of the causes and consequences of seasonal affective disorder and could also shed light on why we crave more food in winter.

Gerald Lincoln, of Edinburgh University’s Centre for Reproductive Biology, said: “Surprisingly, the circannual body clock works on a 10-month cycle.

“We reset our body calendar every summer, when increased light inhibits the production of melatonin. This could explain why sunshine makes us feel happier.”

Symptoms of delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS), popularly called the ‘night owl’ syndrome include the inability to fall asleep at night and excessive daytime sleepiness. If this problem continues over a three or four-month period, DSPS is probably the cause.

This syndrome makes it difficult to function in a world where the normal pattern dictates night as the time for sleep. Because DSPS can cause employment, relationship and other difficulties, it can lead to unhappiness and depression.

Source:The Times Of India

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