We all know we need at least some sleep, but how much can we actually get away with?
Obviously, you need a lot more sleep as a child than as a grown adult.
As Sleep Charity in the UK says, while the average amount of sleep an adult needs is around eight hours a night, there is no “normal” length of time.
However, some people claim to be able to manage as little as five hours of sleep, including former US President Barack Obama, former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, or even Rihanna.
Is it possible to function consistently with so little sleep?
Yes, but only for a handful of people with Short Sleeper Syndrome.
It is generally defined as people who sleep only a few hours a night, without experiencing the unpleasant side effects the next day (we’re talking drowsiness, depression and general exhaustion).
The American company, the Sleep Foundation, says this means their bodies can handle six hours or less of sleep per night, even if the individual has more time to sleep.
How do you become a short sleeper?
If you think you can just hack your body’s need to sleep, you’re out of luck.
Behavioral neuroscientist Andrew Coogan told Live Science news website that, “True short sleeper syndrome is probably a genetic trait.
“There have been studies that identified genes involved in families in which short sleeper syndrome occurs.”
Previous studies pointed to a particular gene variant that resisted sleep deprivation while not impairing non-rapid eye movement sleep — the stage important for physical recovery and memory consolidation.
The 2019 study, published in the scientific journal Neuron, suggested that “in the human population, this is a rare mutation, with an incidence of 4,028 out of 100,000.”
That means your short sleeper syndrome is quite small – less than 1%.
Coogan even suggested that most people who think they are short sleepers have “just gotten used to a life where there isn’t much sleep”.
“These people might be able to do it for a certain time of their lives, but not all their lives,” he speculated.
How do you know if you’re actually a short sleeper?
Coogan said: “There’s no specific test, but a good rule of thumb is that if someone’s sleep duration doesn’t increase over the weekend, despite having the option to sleep in, they may be a real short sleeper.”
Does it matter that you sleep less, but are not a short sleeper?
As an adult, you should be getting between seven and nine hours of sleep, although this can fluctuate over a person’s lifetime based on other factors.
And sleep is important, for cognitive function, your body’s recovery and for your general well-being, as we all know, so it’s important to give yourself time to sleep.
But the occasional sleepless night is okay.
In fact, the Insomnia Clinic explains, “Your body knows what to do. If you have a bad night’s sleep, as long as you don’t take steps to amplify this problem, you’ve built a great “sleep ride” for the next night.
Your ‘sleep drive’ is defined as your hunger for sleep, so even if you had a poor night’s sleep the night before, you should still be able to follow the same routine the next day – and then you’ll be able to get back to your sleep routine . normal sleep pattern.