Alcohol And Sleep: Researchers Identify Genes That Connect Sleep Habits To Alcoholism
Scientists understand surprisingly little about sleep, and how it can affect a person’s behavior. Recent research from Brown University in Rhode Island in collaboration with Bradley Hospital seeks to answer questions about sleeping patterns by identifying genes that manage sleep and connect alcohol and sleep habits,
It’s been well-established in the past that alcohol use alters sleeping habits, and while it may help people fall asleep faster and deeper initially, it tends to result in a poorer quality of sleep (a reduction in REM sleep) in the second half of the sleeping cycle.
Mary Carskadon, Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, started the University’s sleep lab in 1985 and helped led the study from 2010-2014, which surveyed freshmen about their sleeping habits. Carskadon’s lab used data to correlate sleeping habits with weight gain and night screentime.
The researchers found, however, that blood samples from subjects collected in the same data set suggested a link between specific genes and sleep. The Sleep Research lab released findings this year that identified five new genes in a worm that are associated with sleep.
They combined efforts with the Department of Neuroscience, which assisted with experiments conducted on the worm. The research reveals some mechanisms that control sleep in animals.
Also, the Lab published findings this year along with the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies that link sleeping patterns and behavior to alcoholic tendencies. More recently, the group published findings that also linked sleep habits with mood, specifically depression.
The researchers hope that in the future they will be able to identify sleep habits linked with types of alcohol abuse using a similar method. They also hope to further their partnership with the department of neuroscience and identify additional genes linked to sleep.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology