Saturday, August 15, 2009

I, Mutant?

I read an interesting article last night that hit home with me; it discussed a certain group of people who get by just fine with only six hours of sleep a night. Since that club includes myself on (way too many) occasions, I was intrigued by their findings.

It turns out that a genetic mutation might be responsible for this:
The finding doesn't appear likely to help people with insomnia. Still, it "opens a door" to greater understanding of why people sleep as long as they do, said study co-author Ying-Hui Fu, a professor of neurology at the University of California at San Francisco.

Armed with this research, scientists may be able to eventually develop safe ways to tinker with people's bodies so that they can sleep less, she said. "At the same time, we'll feel fine."

According to Fu, about 5 percent of people get by on six hours or less of sleep a night without any ill effects. "They're perfectly fine, and they don't have a problem," she said. "For them, six hours is like eight hours for me."

For most people, however, eight or 8.5 hours of sleep are best, she said.
Heh. There are nights when I don't even get home 8.5 hours before I'm supposed to get up the next morning. As I've told people for years, if I was one of those people who needed eight hours, a lot of things wouldn't get done.

So am I one of the "mutants" described in the story? I guess it depends on your definition of "without any ill effects." Sure, there are times when I can get sleepy during the day if I haven't slept a lot the night before, but there are external factors at play as well (such as length of the workday, temperature of the room, and the fact that my job often requires me to sit in a small room for long periods of time). Still, if the lack of eight hours a night had been a big problem, one would think I would have noticed some ill effects (far beyond wanting a nap) by now.

I'd like to sleep more, but I sometimes get distracted (especially here on the computer), and sometimes there just isn't enough day for all the things I need to do. Still, with the fall semester coming up soon, I'm going to work as best I can to split the difference and try for seven hours on most nights.

How many hours a night do you usually sleep, and how does that stack up with the number of hours you'd prefer to sleep? As always, the "comment" button is below.

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