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For some of us there’s no amount of meditation, sheep counting or blue screen limiting that’ll get us into bed at a reasonable hour.

And while it’s easy to ascribe it to stress, too much caffeine or a really addictive TV show, there may be more to it than that.

A study that was carried out in 2017 seems to suggest there’s a specific gene mutation that causes people to become ‘night owls’. It found that people’s genetic clock may run a couple of hours later than the ‘typical’ circadian rhythm following the rising and setting of the sun.

These are people for whom, even when deprived of tablets or external stimulation, are still unable to fall asleep until later.

What happens is this: every morning our circadian rhythm starts building up proteins known as activators in our cells. Over the course of 12-16 hours, these activators give way to inhibitors as we wind down and start to get sleepy. But the mutation stops the inhibitors from being as successful, stretching out the time our cells are active for during the day.

As much as 10% of the global population suffer from delayed sleep phase disorder. (Getty)

‘Carriers of the mutation have longer days than the planet gives them, so they are essentially playing catch-up for their entire lives,’ said first author Alina Patke, a research associate in the lab of principal investigator Michael Young, Richard and Jeanne Fisher Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Genetics at The Rockefeller University.

The team backed up their research with a study of six families in Turkey where 39 people had the mutation and 31 didn’t. For those without the mutation, the mid-point of their sleep cycle was 4am. For those with it, it was between 6am and 8am – pushing their day back by two hours.

Despite the mutation, the researchers say it is still possible to manage the situation.

‘An external cycle and good sleep hygiene can help force a slow-running clock to accommodate a 24-hour day,’ said Patke.

‘We just have to work harder at it.’