Genes: Do Yours Allow You To Thrive On Less Sleep?

For all living beings, sleep and proper rest is essential to our ongoing and functional health, and is related to genes in the same way as nutrition and exercise. It is said that the human body can survive three times as long without food as it can function without sleep. According to J. Christian Gillin, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, the best known record for the longest amount of time undergone by a person without sleep was set in 1965 by Randy Gardner. The 17-year old high school student stayed awake for approximately 11 days for a science fair, and prior to this, there have been several soldiers who reported ongoing fighting for up to four days without sleep.

Most people, according to the National Sleep Foundation, must sleep for seven hours or more in order to attain optimal functionality. Some, however, require quite a bit less than that to feel rested, and are seemingly able to live heathy, productive lives on around half of this recommended resting time.

Is it possible to possess genes that allows you to thrive on less than that?

This indeed appears to be the case. The University of California recently published a report explaining why rare individuals such as the late Margaret Thatcher was able to work optimally on just four hours of sleep a night, while the majority of humans are unable to do so. It all goes down to our genes.

The mutated “super sleeper” gene: DEC2

The particular gene responsible for this phenomenon is a mutation, and has been given the name DEC2. It is also involved in the regulation of a persons circadian rhythm, which is part of the equation. Those who possess it, are described as “more efficient sleepers”. In other words, their brains are able to extract more rest from a shorter amount of time, and they basically “condense” their resting habits.

Only about 1% of the world’s population has this gene. In addition, these “super sleepers” generally have better energy and optimism than most people, and they often choose to work more than one job at a time, as they can get more things done in a day. It was also found that they actually had negative results following “too much” sleep – including grogginess and feeling out of sorts – according to Ying Hui-Fu, a researcher at the University of California. Click here for the full study and TED Talk on this topic.

Can you become a more efficient sleeper?

Although certain researchers contemplate the possibility of allowing people to sleep less by tapping into and changing our genetic code, this is still just that – a far-off possibility. Until then, however, there are a number of things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep and make the most of your resting hours. One of the best ways to do this is to set and keep a consistent wakeup time.

Want to know more? Click here to find out how you can set up your bedroom for the best sleep yet.