A study reported in The Wall Street Journal offers a new, interesting factoid about humans, sleep, and just how much we need it. While the vast majority of people require 7 to 9 hours or rest per night, a very very small fraction of people can get by with 5 or less hours and experience no ill effects.
Other than denial (and maybe even a good dose of jealousy), what should this mean for the rest of us? And how can we learn from these special cases to improve our own levels of restfulness and productivity?
The answer is not simple. As I previously discussed in my post about how sleeping more can actually save you time, sleep deprivation (for practically everyone) can lead to a slew of health problems including cardiovascular complications, diabetes, obesity and a measurable decline in lifespan. In the case of the natural “short sleepers” mentioned in the recent article, they exhibit none of these negative symptoms, and, in fact, are physically slimmer than average. They show no signs of tiredness, and often have an active, almost manic personality and schedule to match.
Before you get really jealous, it seems short sleepers derive the most benefit from their positive outlook and general sense of energy. Luckily, we already have perfectly suitable ways of making this happen for the rest of us. A healthy diet, regular exercise (possibly even before breakfast), and (yes) getting enough sleep, will help you have the energy and attitude that truly will make a difference.
Oh, and if you still think you might be a short sleeper yourself? The scientists found that it is so rare, that even among people who already considered themselves short sleepers, the actual number was less than one percent.