Researchers have found that there are some people who only need a few hours of sleep per night — but the vast majority of us really should be getting 7 or 8 hours per night. According to the Wall Street Journal, while one-third of U.S. adults are getting less sleep than they should, about 1% to 3% of the population feels refreshed after only a few hours of shut-eye.
These "short sleepers" usually go to bed late and get up a few hours later, but don't feel tired throughout the rest of the day. Researchers have only been able to perform a few studies on short sleepers, since very few have been identified. Some studies suggest these people have hypomania, a mild form of mania that leads to racing thoughts and lower inhibitions. Doctors have also discovered a gene variation in a mother and daughter who went to bed after midnight and naturally woke up at 4 a.m. The gene was replicated in mice, which then also needed less sleep.
Short sleepers tend to have a different circadian rhythm than most people. They're usually upbeat, and have a high tolerance for pain and psychological setbacks. While sleep deprivation usually increases the risk of obesity, they're often thin and have a high metabolism.
Christopher Jones, a University of Utah neurologist and sleep scientist who has worked with short sleepers says:
"Typically, at the end of a long, structured phone interview, they will admit that they've been texting and surfing the Internet and doing the crossword puzzle at the same time, all on less than six hours of sleep... There is some sort of psychological and physiological energy to them that we don't understand."
While scientists hope that these individals can help us understand sleep, and maybe even one day learn to stay awake longer without consequences, for now there's no way to turn yourself into a short sleeper. You may behave like one, but caffeine can only fight off the inevitable crash for so long.
The Sleepless Elite [WSJ]
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