Some People Are Literally Born To Nap, New Study Suggests

A new study has found that some people may have a genetic predisposition to needing more naps than others. Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital studied genetic data from 452,633 people, with participants in the study asked a series of questions about how often they nap and made to wear an activity monitor to ensure the information they reported was accurate. What they discovered was fascinating.

  1. There’s a reason that we nap. According to Dr. Hassan Dashti, some people believe we shouldn’t need to nap while others insist it’s a natural part of the biological process. “Napping is somewhat controversial. It was important to try to disentangle the biological pathways that contribute to why we nap,” he explained. He added that the study findings “gave an extra layer of confidence that what we found is real and not an artifact.”
  2. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) was performed as a follow-up. The purpose of this study was to identify genetic variations around napping and it identified 123 regions in the human genome that were associated with needing a mid-day snooze. Many of the scientists already knew were related to sleeping, so they knew they were onto something.
  3. Napping isn’t always about not getting enough rest at night. While scientists did discover that “disrupted sleep” and “early morning awakening” contributed to some people needing a nap in the middle of the day, other people slept fine at night but still needed a little more shut-eye in the daylight hours. “This tells us that daytime napping is biologically driven and not just an environmental or behavioural choice,” Dr. Dashti explained. Those with characteristics like obesity and high blood pressure were also likely to need more naps.
  4. This is a great finding that definitely needs more study. “This pathway is known to be involved in rare sleep disorders like narcolepsy, but our findings show that smaller perturbations in the pathway can explain why some people nap more than others,” study co-author and graduate student Iyas Daghlas from Harvard Medical School said. The full study was published in the journal Nature Communications.
Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill