The New Yorker profiles the work of Allan Pack and Ying-Hui Fu and explains its implications.
The results could be meaningful for professions in which long periods of sleeplessness are necessary. “Identifying these variants can help predict who will be impacted from sleep deprivation and who won’t be,” Pack said. “We can use genetics to help us derive the best schedules for specific people.” Perhaps more important, though, the findings could have implications for improving the quality of life for the millions of people who are chronically sleep-deprived. “Identifying these genetic variants tells us something about the very specific biology of what affects sleep need,” Pack said. Once scientists understand that biology, they can test the specific molecules that affect those specific sleep pathways—a potential road toward new drug targets and pharmaceuticals.