Usual sleep duration is a heritable trait correlated with psychiatric morbidity, cardiometabolic disease and mortality, although little is known about the genetic variants influencing this trait. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) of usual sleep duration was conducted using 18 population-based cohorts totaling 47 180 individuals of European ancestry. Genome-wide significant association was identified at two loci. The strongest is located on chromosome 2, in an intergenic region 35- to 80-kb upstream from the thyroid-specific transcription factor PAX8 (lowest P=1.1 × 10(-9)). This finding was replicated in an African-American sample of 4771 individuals (lowest P=9.3 × 10(-4)). The strongest combined association was at rs1823125 (P=1.5 × 10(-10), minor allele frequency 0.26 in the discovery sample, 0.12 in the replication sample), with each copy of the minor allele associated with a sleep duration 3.1 min longer per night. The alleles associated with longer sleep duration were associated in previous GWAS with a more favorable metabolic profile and a lower risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Understanding the mechanisms underlying these associations may help elucidate biological mechanisms influencing sleep duration and its association with psychiatric, metabolic and cardiovascular disease.