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January 2011



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Published: August 13, 2009

Researchers have found a genetic mutation in two people who need far less sleep than average, a discovery that might open the door to understanding human sleep patterns and lead to treatments for insomnia and other sleep disorders.

The finding, published in the Friday issue of the journal Science, marks the first time scientists have identified a genetic mutation that relates to sleep duration in any animal or human.

Although the mutation has been identified in only two people, the power of the research stems from the fact that the shortened sleep effect was replicated in mouse and fruit-fly studies. As a result, the research now gives scientists a clearer sense of where to look for genetic traits linked to sleep patterns.

“I think it’s really a landmark study,” said Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, a leading sleep researcher and chief of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “It opens up a window to the understanding of the genetic basis of individual differences in sleep duration. Now you have a piece of the puzzle and you can begin to try to trace back as opposed to having little information as to where to start.”

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Online Treatment May Help Insomniacs

Published: August 10, 2009

You can do almost anything on the Internet these days. What about getting a good night’s sleep?

It might be possible, some researchers say. Web-based programs to treat insomnia are proliferating, and two small but rigorous studies suggest that online applications based on cognitive behavioral therapy can be effective.

“Fifteen years ago, people would have thought it was crazy to get therapy remotely,” said Bruce Wampold, a professor of counseling psychology at the University of Wisconsin. “But as we do more and more things electronically, including have social relationships, more therapists have come to believe that this can be an effective way to deliver services to some people.”

The first controlled study of an online program for insomnia was published in 2004. But the results were hard to interpret, because they showed similar benefits for those who used the program and those in the control group. The two new studies, from researchers in Virginia and in Canada, advance the evidence that such programs can work.

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