Don’t need much sleep? You may be a mutant

We’ve often thought that people who somehow manage to stay calm, focused and seemingly cheerful on just a few hours’ sleep were mutants – and now we have scientific proof.

An international group of researchers studied 100 pairs of twins recruited by the University of Pennsylvania and found that one of them had a gene mutation called p.Tyr362His which made him able to functional like a normal person on just five hours a night, with none of the symptoms of sleep deprivation. His brother, on the other hand, needed an hour more to even start feeling refreshed.

After measuring how long and how well the twins slept using home tracking devices, the scientists deprived them of sleep for 38 hours and then studied them in a sleep lab. The twin with the genetic mutation had almost half the number of concentration lapses as his brother and only needed 8 hours recovery time, whereas his brother required 9-and-a-half.

Not catching enough zeds makes most of us irritable, slow-witted, and less attentive than usual. Long-term, it increases the risk of serious health problems, including stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. According to the NHS, 1 in 3 Brits are suffering from its effects, which have also been linked to dangerous driving and workplace accidents.

But this study confirms earlier research that how much sleep you need is linked to genes rather than lifestyle. So while it sucks to be genetically inferior, ‘I need to go to bed because I’m not a mutant’ might be the best reason for an early night we’ve ever heard.

Image via Pedro Ribeiro Simões’ Flickr.

Diane Shipley

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