Thomas Edison, Margaret Thatcher, Jack Dorsey. Besides being incredibly successful individuals, all three of these thought pioneers are famously known for functioning on very little sleep. Turns out, they all may be genetically wired the same way.
Although most people need at least seven hours of sleep each night, a genetic mutation in the p. Tyr362HIS, a variant of the BHLHE41 gene, may allow some people to sleep less and still have brains that function well after periods of sleep deprivation.
Researchers discovered this gene during a recent sleep study with 100 pairs of twins. Each twin pair was of the same sex and deemed healthy by medical professionals. Researchers used equipment for home monitoring, where nightly sleep hours were measured. After that, the participants attended a sleep lab, where they stayed awake for 38 hours. During that period, researchers monitored their cognitive abilities every few hours.
Researchers discovered that those participants needing less sleep and those that still functioned well after sleep deprivation had a mutation in p.Tyr362His. Not only that, but that genetic mutation also meant that those who needed less sleep also needed less time to recover from sleep deprivation.
"This work provides an important second gene variant associated with sleep deprivation and for the first time shows the role of BHLHE41 in resistance to sleep deprivation in humans," says Renata Pellegrino, PhD, lead author of the study."
However, that's not to say that most of us still don't need a good night's sleep consisting of more hours. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), less than six hours of sleep is generally bad and affects how your brain focuses on activities. Sleep deprivation results in problems with concentration, logical reasoning, low energy and even depression.
"This study emphasizes that our need for sleep is a biological requirement, not a personal preference," says AASM President Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler. "Most adults appear to need at least seven hours of quality sleep each night for optimal health, productivity and daytime alertness."
And while you may think that you are one of the "chosen ones" that doesn't need sleep, you're probably wrong. Studies have indicated that out of every 100 people who think they need less than six hours of sleep a night, only five of them are correct.