Researchers who studied 100 pairs of twins have identified a gene mutation that may allow the carrier to function normally on less than six hours of sleep a night and provide greater resistance to the effects of sleep deprivation.
Results show that a participant with the genetic variant had an average nightly sleep duration of only five hours, more than one hour shorter than the non-carrier twin who slept for about six hours and five minutes a night. The twin with the gene mutation also averaged 40% fewer lapses of performance during 38 hours without sleep and required less recovery sleep afterward.
“This work … for the first time shows the role of (the gene variant) in resistance to sleep deprivation in humans,” said lead author Dr. Renata Pellegrino, senior research associate with the Center for Applied Genomics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Study results are published in the Aug. 1 issue of the journal Sleep.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that only a small percentage of adults are normal short sleepers who routinely obtain less than six hours of sleep a night without complaints of sleep difficulties and no obvious daytime dysfunction.
“This study emphasizes that our need for sleep is a biological requirement, not a personal preference,” said Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler, president of the academy. “Most adults appear to need at least seven hours of quality sleep each night for optimal health, productivity and daytime alertness.”