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Solving the mystery of human sleep schedules one mutation at a time.

  • Author(s): Hallows, William C;
  • Ptáček, Louis J;
  • Fu, Ying-Hui
  • et al.

Sleep behavior remains one of the most enigmatic areas of life. The unanswered questions range from "why do we sleep?" to "how we can improve sleep in today's society?" Identification of mutations responsible for altered circadian regulation of human sleep lead to unique opportunities for probing these territories. In this review, we summarize causative circadian mutations found from familial genetic studies to date. We also describe how these mutations mechanistically affect circadian function and lead to altered sleep behaviors, including shifted or shortening of sleep patterns. In addition, we discuss how the investigation of mutations can not only expand our understanding of the molecular mechanisms regulating the circadian clock and sleep duration, but also bridge the pathways between clock/sleep and other human physiological conditions and ailments such as metabolic regulation and migraine headaches.

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