Researchers have identified a gene that seems to be involved in the amount of deep or ‘slow wave’ sleep a person gets during the night.
Slow wave sleep, typically characterised by EEG readings of less than 5 cycles per second, is thought to be important for allowing the brain to change its structure.
This process of reorganisation is known as ‘plasticity’ and is thought to be particularly important for the consolidation and filtering of memories.
Led by sleep researcher Julia R√©tey, the team from the University of Zurich found that different versions of the gene related to the breakdown of the neurotransmitter adenosine were present in people who differed in their duration of slow wave sleep.
Interestingly, caffeine’s sleep fighting properties are thought to be due to the fact that it blocks adenosine receptors, suggesting that the adenosine system may be a crucial piece in understanding how and why we sleep.
Link to article on study from Science website.
Link to study abstract.
Link to excellent Wikipedia article on sleep.