Researchers discovered a rare gene mutation that allows people to function on less sleep. A mother and daughter normally can sleep for about 6 hours whereas others have to sleep 8 or more hours. When this gene was placed in mice, they also had less need for sleep. Study co-author, Dr. Fu, commented that her "fantasy" is that this finding could lead to treatments that can lead getting by on less sleep. This finding was published in today’s issue of Science.
When scientists bred mice with the same mutation, they also needed less sleep and were able to recover quicker from less sleep. However, a similar study last year showed that fruit flies with a similar gene mutation produced similar findings, but died 40% faster.
We know from multiple studies that people who sleep too little have a much higher chance of developing depression, diabetes and heart disease. People who sleep too long have similar risks, but not as severe.
Different people have different sleep duration needs. The 8 hours that’s generally recommended is a myth. This is assuming that everyone is able to breathe normally at night. But most modern humans are susceptible to breathing problems at night due to our smaller jaw structures and dental crowding. This is why many people can’t sleep on their backs. They keep waking up due to various degrees of obstruction and arousal, since the tongue relaxes in deep sleep. The extreme end of this continuum is obstructive sleep apnea. This is a major under-appreciated condition that can explain chronic fatigue, weight gain and unrefreshing sleep.