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How Much Sleep Do You Need?

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 08/16/2009
Last Updated: 11/12/2018

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Lately, my days seems to fly by that it's hard to fit in everything I want- I always want to stay up late to stretch the day even more. But I need at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night to feel rested, and envy the person who can get along with just five or six hours of shuteye a night.

Although many people say they can get along just fine with little sleep, it turns out that there are some - but they're in the minority - who really can.

How? It's all in their genes.

Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco who were studying circadian rhythms (the biochemical cycles that govern our sleep, hunger and activity) have discovered a very rare mutation in a gene called DEC2 that is responsible for some people actually needing - and getting along fine on - less sleep.

These lucky people - less than 3% of all humans - sleep more intensely and thus need less of it.

Sure, there are many people (my husband for one) who regularly get six hours of sleep a night and insist they're fine. But try cutting out those random 10-minute power naps, or staying awake past 8:30 PM - and then convince me that six hours a night is truly enough. (Don't forget that too little sleep can lead to health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and memory problems, not to mention overeating.)

The people in this study who were found to have this mutation were energetic and vital without any power naps or any weekend "catch-up" on their sleep. They were able to go to bed at 10PM, wake up at 4AM, even on vacation.

This is one mutation I'd love to have. Imagine being able to get up each day bright-eyed enough to see the sun rise. Vacations would not feel like they went by so fast, since the days would be so much longer; you'd feel good enough to power through the day without needing a nap. You'd never fall behind on things. You could even take on another hobby - or two.

I'm getting tired just thinking about it.

But for now, I'll have to plan my schedule accordingly and perhaps reduce my expectations by just a few hours. Oh, and fit in a nap here and there.

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