Welcome to ScienceofSleep.org!
Have you ever wonder why you sleep less than most of people around you and you don’t feel tired and you get tons of things done everyday? Perhaps more commonly, you wonder why someone else you know can function perfectly with less sleep than you do. For me personally, I have always wished that I could feel better with the amount of sleep that I normally get.
Sleep remains to be one of the most mysterious things that we do in life. If you dig into the scientific literature, you will find that we actually don’t know much about how our sleep is regulated. What dictates how much sleep is optimal for each of us? And why? Why do I need 8 hours and you only need 6? Seems unfair to me, but why can’t I just sleep 6 hours anyway? What happen if I just drink coffee and sleep 6 hours and maintain this schedule for a long time? What is it that is controlling this area of my life? What about sleep schedule? People always told me “Early birds get the worms.” So, am I supposed to try to get up early to get to things? But what if I can’t? I simply don’t feel good when I force myself to get up earlier than my body wants to and I get crabby and inefficient. What is making me an early bird or night owl? Well, the answer of course is your brain. Which parts of my brain is doing this to me? How do they control my schedule? Well, we don’t know.
These are some of the questions we want to answer. But, how? Fortunately, it appears that our genes have something to do with this. From our studies of the last 15 years, we learned that sleep traits do “run in the family” for many cases. This suggests that there is some major genetic component that is dictating sleep traits for those particular families. But, this does not mean that the same genetic component is responsible for all the families with the particular trait. We have had good fortune to have many people participating our studies in sleep behavior. Because of these participants, we have been able to identify a few genetic variations that are responsible for sleep behavior related traits including preferred sleep schedule and sleep duration.
Our goal is to see whether we can understand the nuts and bolts of sleep regulation enough so that we can find a safe way to modulate our sleep behavior without jeopardizing our health.
- Ying-Hui Fu, Ph.D
Professor in Residence at UCSF