On average, people need to sleep 8 hours a night to feel rested and avoid sleep deprivation. Studies have shown that in most people less than 6 hours of sleep results in cognitive decline within days. Over longer periods sleep deprivation is linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and depression. Scientists have discovered a genetic mutation that allows some people to feel completely rested with less than 6 hours of sleep each night. Ying-Hui Fu and her colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco have been studying families which seem to need less sleep than the rest of the population.
This team has found mutations with the ADRB1 gene that allows 12 members of a family that needs less than 4.5 hours of sleep each night without feeling sleep deprived, according to a report by the New Scientist. The ADRB1 gene codes for a receptor protein common in a brain region called the Dorsal Pons, which regulates sleep. In another family, a mutation in the NPSR1 gene causes one member to need as little as 4.3 hours a night. The NPSR1 gene codes for a protein receptor linked to arousal and sleep behavior. The NPSR1 has previously been linked to reduced sleep in the past.
Fu’s team has found so far that there are no ill effects with the people who have these altered genes, they are happy and healthy. Further more, when the team engineered this mutation into mice they found that the mice slept less with no decline in their healthy nor memory. If these gene mutations offered a big advantage evolution should have made them common, however they still remain very rare. Fu’s states; “I don’t have a good answer as to why they are not more common. Maybe they are not as rare as we think.”.
Developing drugs that mimic these mutations may be an option, however the NPSR1 is also crucial to processing stress, fear and anxiety, the risk of countable side effects is high. To be positive about the long term effects of these altered genes it would require long term studies involving a large amount of people and Fu says that’s “not feasible”. So for now get your 8 hours a night, Doctor’s orders