Are you a short sleeper or a long sleeper? A new study shows that short sleepers may be genetically programmed to require less sleep. Get the full story.
Most people drag themselves out of bed in the morning and flounder around for thirty minutes before they can wake up – but there are people who sleep less than others and still hop out of bed feeling perky. These short sleepers seem to thrive on their routine of less sleep. How did they get to be so lucky?
Short Sleeper vs. Long Sleeper: It May Be in the Genes
According to a study published in the journal Science, whether a person is a short sleeper or a long sleeper may be determined by genetics. Some people have inherited the ability to “rise and shine” despite getting less sleep than the recommended seven to eight hours.
Researchers located a family where five of the family members slept, on average, eight hours a night – the amount many people need to feel rested. In the same family, they found two short sleepers who slept an average of six hours a night – routinely. After looking at their genes, they discovered the two short sleepers had a mutation in their genes that the other five long sleepers in the family didn’t have.
Once the researchers had identified the genetic mutation in the short sleepers, they created the same mutation in mice. Lo and behold, the mice that had this genetic mutation slept less – and were still active and chipper during the day. Plus, when they were sleep deprived, they didn’t make up for it by sleeping more the next night. This simple mutation turned these mice into short sleepers.
Short Sleepers May Have Other Problems
According to this study, whether you’re a long sleeper or a short one is genetically determined – at least partially. But before lamenting the fact you’re a long sleeper, consider this. People who sleep fewer hours are more likely to have chronic health problems such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. One study even showed that people who sleep very little have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. If you slept less, you may get more done – but on the downside you could end up dying sooner.
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re a short sleeper or a long sleeper may depend on the genes you were handed. Overall, it’s best to aim for seven hours a night – the amount most studies show is optimal for good health.
Science 2009. August 14; 325:866.
Journal Watch. October 1, 2009. page 155.
Medscape.com website. “Lack of Sleep May Play Role in Alzheimer’s: Study”.