Researchers have pondered, and investigated, for decades why one person is alert and productive at 6 a.m. while another can't even focus before noon.1 But now, their persistence is paying off: chronobiologists, those who investigate circadian rhythms, or daily clocks, are finally making concrete links between sleep patterns in humans and a menagerie of well-studied animal models.

As with many behavioral studies, it's the extreme or unusual cases that eventually inform scientists about normal processes. A few years ago, a woman complained to investigators at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City that she felt an overwhelming desire to fall asleep around 7:30 p.m., and wake up before dawn, around 4:30 a.m. And she was not the only one--other members in her family had the same problem. This started Utah investigators on a research project that culminated in the first study to link a human genetic syndrome to...

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