Journal of sleep research

Length polymorphism in the Period 3 gene is associated with sleepiness and maladaptive circadian phase in night-shift workers.

PMID 25545397


The objective of the current study was to determine if night-shift workers carrying the five-repeat variant of the Period 3 gene show elevated levels of nocturnal sleepiness and earlier circadian phase compared with homozygotes for the four-repeat allele. Twenty-four permanent night-shift workers were randomly selected from a larger study. Participants took part in an observational laboratory protocol including an overnight multiple sleep latency test and half-hourly saliva collection for calculation of dim-light melatonin onset. Period 3(-/5) shift workers had significantly lower multiple sleep latency test during overnight work hours compared with Period 3(4/4) workers (3.52 ± 23.44 min versus 10.39 ± 6.41 min, P = 0.003). We observed no significant difference in sleepiness during early morning hours following acute sleep deprivation. Long-allele carriers indicated significantly higher sleepiness on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale administered at 17:00 hours (12.08 ± 2.55 versus 8.00 ± 1.94, P < 0.001). We observed a significantly earlier melatonin onset in Period 3(-/5) individuals compared with Period 3(4/4) shift workers (20:44 ± 6:37 versus 02:46 ± 4:58, P = 0.021). Regression analysis suggests that Period 3 genotype independently predicts sleepiness even after controlling for variations in circadian phase, but we were unable to link Period 3 to circadian phase when controlling for sleepiness. Period 3(-/5) shift workers showed both subjective and objective sleepiness in the pathological range, while their Period 3(4/4) counterparts showed sleepiness within normal limits. Period 3(-/5) night workers also show a mean circadian phase 6 h earlier (i.e. less adapted) than Period 3(4/4) workers. Because Period 3(-/5) workers have maladaptive circadian phase as well as pathological levels of sleepiness, they may be at greater risk for occupational and automotive accidents. We interpret these findings as a call for future research on the role of Period 3 in sleepiness and circadian phase, especially as they relate to night work.