The New York Times reports on the discovery of a genetic mutation that results in a person only needing six hours of sleep each night instead of the “normal” 8+ hours.
Researchers have found a genetic mutation in two people who need far less sleep than average, a discovery that might open the door to understanding human sleep patterns and lead to treatments for insomnia and other sleep disorders.
The finding, published in the Friday issue of the journal Science, marks the first time scientists have identified a genetic mutation that relates to sleep duration in any animal or human.
Although the mutation has been identified in only two people, the power of the research stems from the fact that the shortened sleep effect was replicated in mouse and fruit-fly studies. As a result, the research now gives scientists a clearer sense of where to look for genetic traits linked to sleep patterns.
The scientists were searching the samples for variations in several genes thought to be related to the sleep cycle. In what amounts to finding a needle in a haystack, they spotted two DNA samples with abnormal copies of a gene called DEC2, which is known to affect circadian rhythms. They then worked back to find out who provided the samples and found a mother and daughter who were naturally short sleepers. The women routinely function on about 6 hours of sleep a night; the average person needs 8 to 8.5 hours of sleep.
For as long as I can remember, I have slept no more than six hours in any night – unless I was sick. That’s the only times I have slept longer. This has always been a source of wonder for others in my family. My mother in law – here for a few weeks – again commented on how I seem to get up awfully early. (She’s made that observation in the past many times). My wife – again – explained that I simply never slept eight hours. My wife is used to it by now. I simply get up and go do whatever until it is time for her to get up.
So I read this article then went out into the living room and announced, “Hey, Honey! You married a mutant.” She immediately replied, “I knew that.”
Before I told her why.
I think I’m insulted.
But this is interesting. Do you realize that people with this mutation have an extra two hours every day that “normal” people do not?
Now, if I can just figure out how to get the retractable metal claws, I’ll be all set.