Can’t sleep? Thank your grandma, because genetics may be to blame


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Photo: Getty Images/Luis Alvarez

When you’re a kid, you just don’t appreciate how easy it is to fall asleep. It’s like a million times more likely that the biggest stress keeping you awake at night is wondering where you misplaced your favorite Lip Smacker than it is a case of sleep FOMO. In grown-up real life though, there are many culprits behind your shut-eye struggles, from a snoring bedmate to worrying about work and general anxiety. But something you can’t do anything about? Being genetically prone to insomnia.

meta-analysis published in the journal Nature Genetics looked at data from more than 453,000 people and found that 57 gene regions are associated with insomnia. Because the discovered links weren’t affected by common risk factors of insomnia—such as “lifestyle, caffeine consumption, depression, or recent stress”—the findings provide even more evidence that the risk of the sleep disorder can be inherited.

“Our findings confirm a role for genetics in insomnia symptoms and expand upon the four previously found [gene regions] for this condition,” says lead author Jacqueline M. Lane, PhD, in a press release. “All of these identified regions help us understand why some people get insomnia, which pathways and systems are affected, and point to possible new therapeutic targets.”

So basically, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is no matter what steps you take to fight insomnia, it could simply be part of your genes. And the good? Having a better idea of the cause provides doctors more insight on the best remedies for treating it effectively. For now, chat with your family members and see if they’ve dealt with the same issues you’re experiencing. Because if genetics are to blame, the best sleep solutions may just come from those who have already been through it.

Want more sleep week content? Here’s how ASMR could help you sleep better at night. Or, find out why giving yourself a break at the office could lead to more shut-eye.

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