People who had two copies of the gene ABCC9 slept significantly less than people with two copies of another version.
Scientists discover a gene that controls how long we sleep has been explaining why some people have their own internal alarm clock.
Scientists identified a gene called ABCC9 that can reduce the length of time we sleep. The same gene has previously been linked to heart disease and diabetes.
The discovery could explain why light sleepers are able to get by on just four hours shut-eye a night.
The Europe-wide study saw 4,000 people from seven different EU countries fill out a questionnaire assessing their sleep habits.
Scientists then analysed their answers, as well as participants’ genes.
They discovered that people who had two copies of one common variant of ABCC9 slept for ‘significantly shorter’ periods than people with two copies of another version.
Having already established that the ABCC9 gene was also present in fruitflies, the team were able to modify it in the animal and shorten the length of time for which it slept.
Study author Dr Karla Allebrandt, from the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich said: ‘Apparently the relationships of sleep duration with other conditions such as heart disease and diabetes can be in part explained by an underlying common molecular mechanism.
‘The ABCC9 gene is evolutionarily ancient, as a similar gene is present in fruitflies. Fruitflies also exhibit sleep-like behavior.
‘When we blocked the function of the ABCC9 homolog in the fly nervous system, the duration of nocturnal sleep was shortened.’
Co-author Professor Till Roenneberg added: ‘It is very encouraging for us that ABCC9 also affects the nocturnal sleep period in flies.
‘This tells us that the genetic control of sleep duration may well be based on similar mechanisms in a wide range of highly diverse species.’
Via Daily Mail