Genetic aspects of sleep disorders

Genetic aspects of sleep disorders

Genetic aspects of sleep disorders

Why do we ask sleep coaching about sleep disorders in the family?

In many medical, neurological and pediatric diseases, the influence of the genes has been clarified. Sleep disorders are sometimes not only the external influences such as light, age, stress and social stress responsible but also a genetic predisposition, ie  disposition.

Here are some examples.

One group is sleep disorders due to a disturbed nocturnal motor function

The  restless leg syndrome  or the periodic leg movements during sleep often attract attention. People are sleeping badly because they have to move their legs as if under duress. Visiting concerts, long-distance flights and sitting still in meetings are almost impossible. To stop the painful urge to move the legs is possible only by strong willpower. This leads to stress and withdrawal in humans.

Sleepwalking, nocturnal confused awakening (confusional arousel) and nightmares (Pavor nocturmus), which sometimes occurs in children, also fall into this group.


Sleepwalking affects up to 20% of all children. In adults, only about 1-3% are affected. Should there be known sleepwalkers in the family, the risk of the individual increases by more than 10 times. This gives an inheritance component.

Genetic aspects of sleep disorders


For example, bruxism, nocturnal gnashing of teeth hits me myself. There are some terrible crunching in my family. The gnashing of teeth and the pressing of teeth are reported by children to be 30%. In adulthood only at 15-17%. I am a  stress cruncher . Bruxism is defined as repetitive masticatory muscle activity characterized by the crunching and pressing of the teeth or jaw. Two different circadian manifestations are to be differentiated. Sleep and watch bruxism. Nocturnal bruxism belongs to the other sleep disorders. The genetic cause is not clearly proven. The waxbuxism is always conditioned by stress. More about this under other sleep disorders.

READ  Restless-Legs-Syndrom (RLS)


There is still a relatively rare disease, narcolepsy. There are two major forms of distinction. In both cases, for example, strong emotions such as laughter or crying can trigger uncontrolled seconds and minutes of sleep. For example, the patient may fall off the bike or chair. A total for the individual very onerous illness. It is estimated that 0.1 percent of people in Germany suffer from narcolepsy, which is about 80,000 affected. Half of the narcolepsy patients have been identified and treated medically.

Narcolepsy is a rare disease, many general practitioners and family physicians recognize the disease and its signs not the nonspecific symptoms and the rarity make a diagnosis difficult. Fatigue, daytime sleepiness, falling asleep, for example, are often explained by the environment with a sleep deficit. Nacolepsia often begins at puberty. Excessive need for sleep is often associated with physical changes rather than illness. The disease begins insidiously, constant attacks of fatigue and the powerlessness to do nothing about it are a burden. Narcolepsy can now be treated well.

Genetic aspects of sleep disorders

Narcolepsy is probably an autoimmune disease with a genetic component. The immune system attacks certain nerve cells in the hypothalamus. The messenger substance, Orexin, which is produced by certain nerve cells in the hypothalamus is responsible for this. This messenger substance is responsible for alertness. In narcolepsy, these orexin-producing neurons are likely to be attacked by their own immune system and ultimately destroyed. This leads to the sudden tiredness and falling asleep during the day. Narkopepsy is also triggered by laughter, sex or strong emotions. This is very stressful for many people.

Another group is that of sleep-disordered breathing – more about  sleep apnea .

READ  Sleep-related diseases due to vitamin deficiency

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