ABCC9 Linked to Heart Failure, Researchers Say Gene Influences Sleep Patterns

The traditional eight hours of sleep may be a myth.

Sleeping patterns may not be the same for everyone. German scientists said they have discovered a gene that may explain why some people can get by with less sleep than others can, and it may be linked to heart failure.

Scientists at Germany’s Ludwig Maximalians University of Munich have found that one gene, called ABCC9; influences sleep duration and could explain why certain people seem able to operate on limited amounts of sleep.

Besides sleeping patterns, the ABCC9 gene was previously linked to heart disease and diabetes. These latest findings on the genetic factor’s role in sleep duration add to a growing body of evidence suggesting a connection between sleep and cardiovascular health.

The researchers found that many people who have two variants of the gene can get by on as little as four hours of sleep a night. A revelation may come as good news to those who get little shuteye.

"This tells us that we are programmed in some way to need a certain amount of sleep, just as some people are programmed to be taller and others are programmed to be shorter," said Toronto-based sleep expert Dr. Colin Shapiro to CTV's “Canada AM.”

According to Canada’s CTV the scientist 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.”

The scientists have based their findings on an Europe-wide survey that saw nearly 4,000 people from seven countries fill out a questionnaire assessing their sleep habits.

“Our society has equated sleepiness with defects of character, like laziness and depression, but really, some people are generally sleepier during the day,” said Dr. Mark Mahowald, medical director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center, to ABC News. “We have to accept the fact that sleep duration is genetically determined and not a sign of a defect.”