Napping is in the genes and not a 'behavioural choice,' Harvard study finds

Massachusetts General Hospital researchers identified 123 regions in the human genome associated with daytime nap.
Napping is in the genes and is not a "behavioral choice," as a Harvard study found.
Studying the genome of nearly half a million people in the UK, scientists found that daytime naps are "biological".
Massachusetts General Hospital researchers identified 123 regions in the human genome associated with daytime nap.
They delved into the data and identified three possible nap mechanisms.
The first two, called "insomnia" and "early morning awakening," refer to people who take naps because they either didn't get enough sleep the night before or woke up at dawn.
The third was related to the propensity to sleep - how much sleep a particular person needs.
Dr. Dashti said, "This tells us that napping during the day is biological, and not just an environmental or behavioral decision."
Some of the genetic traits identified were also linked to health concerns, including obesity and high blood pressure, the researchers noted.
Several of the napping gene variants were associated with orexin, a neuropeptide associated with wakefulness.
The results were published in the journal Nature Communications.
Co-author Iyas Daghlas of Harvard Medical School said, "This pathway is known to be implicated in rare sleep disorders like narcolepsy. However, our results show that minor disturbances along the way may explain why some people nap more than they do other."
Scientists had analyzed genetic information from 452,633 participants in the British biobank.
Participants were asked how often they napped during the day and had three options - never / rarely, sometimes or normally.
Some were asked to wear an activity monitor or accelerometer to ensure they were accurately reporting their snoozes.
Dr. Dashti added, "That gave an extra level of confidence that what we found is real and not an artifact."
A genome-wide association study (GWAS) was then performed to identify genetic variations associated with napping.
This involved quickly scanning entire sets of DNA, or genomes, for large numbers of people.
Their results were independently replicated by a consumer genetic testing company called 23andMe, which analyzed the genomes of 541,333 people.
The co-author Dr. Marta Garaulet of MGH said, "Future work can help develop personalized recommendations for the siesta."
According to the British Medical Journal, taking a five-minute nap in the afternoon can improve memory and keep the brain more agile.
People who regularly napped in the afternoon seemed to speak more fluently and remember things better than those who didn't break the day with some sleep, according to the study.
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