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  • Researchers identify gene that reduces negative impact of sleep deprivation
  • Very few people have this gene
  • Nearly all healthy adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep

Gene mutation the real secret for successful short sleepers

Filed in
  • Healthy sleep habits
  • sleep length

Patrick Murray  |  Aug 07, 2014
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New scientific evidence suggests that a small percentage of people have a short sleep gene. It allows them to retain their ability to think clearly and make informed decisions while sleeping very little.

The research opposes the claims of some vocal short sleepers. These high-profile members of the so-called “sleepless elite” often brag about the competitive advantage of sleeping less than six hours per night. They preach that all of us can achieve more by sleeping less.

Donald Trump, for instance, boasts that he only needs 3 to 4 hours of nightly sleep. In one very Trump-like proclamation, he even claimed that sleep and success can’t co-exist. He once said in an interview, “How does somebody that’s sleeping 12 and 14 hours a day compete with someone that’s sleeping three or four?"

American icon Thomas Edison was an outspoken enemy of sleep. The father of the light bulb slept about 3 hours a day, dismissing sleep as a “heritage from our cave days.”

The new study identified a rare gene variant that provides a greater resistance to sleep deprivation. The gene mutation allows some people to get away with sleeping less than the rest of us.

Researchers compared 100 pairs of twins. They found that a twin with the p.Tyr362His variant of the BHLHE41 gene slept at least an hour less than his twin brother, who didn’t have the gene. This short-sleeping twin also had fewer mental errors during a 38-hour period without sleep.  After sleep deprivation he required less recovery sleep than his twin brother.

The study is published in the August issue of the journal Sleep. It is only the second study of its kind to identify this type of short sleep gene.

It is clear that few people in the population have a genetic variant that enables them to sleep less. Seven to nine hours of sleep per night is still what most of us need.

Most aspiring short-sleepers are potentially sabotaging their careers by restricting their sleep. They also are risking their health in a misguided attempt to get ahead.

Self-inflicted sleep deprivation also can ruin your appearance. A 2010 study found that participants looked more tired after sleep deprivation than after eight hours of sleep. They also looked less healthy and less attractive.

Producers of a recent video confronted a group of young adults about their short-sleeping lifestyle. To drive the message home they enlisted the help of a professional makeup artist. Each subject pledged to sleep longer after seeing how sleep deprivation would cause them to age less gracefully:

Are you a short sleeper or just short on sleep? A true short sleeper functions well during the day on less than six hours of sleep. Loading up on caffeine or binge sleeping on the weekend are signs that you’re not getting enough sleep.

Regardless of what Donald Trump says, make sleep one of your top health priorities. Sleep is a necessity, not a luxury, and it’s one of the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle.


  1. 1 Mandy 29 May
    I'm in heaven reading that so many other people are like me!!  I sleep about 4 hours a night and wake up completely rested.  I also have insane amounts of energy and usually walk/run 10 miles a day on top of a full time job, being a single mom, etc. and I'm never tired.  Sometimes it's a little boring with so many extra hours in a day, but I feel like I need to start an enterprise!  Haha.  We are all superheros and need to start a Sleepless League.  Hee.
  2. 2 Lanetta Sims 10 Jan
    Hello I would like to attend one of your sleep studies
  3. 3 C 20 Aug
    I was labelled as an insomniac for years but i've only really needed 2-3 hours of sleep since i was 10
  4. 4 Donna 15 Aug
    It is nice to know I am not alone in this, that there are others like me out there. I have excessive energy am never tired and sleep only 5 hours or less a night. I also awaken a lot during the night. People accuse me of lying about how little I sleep.  I have always been this way. I am glad this disorder is getting more attention.
  5. 5 Mark 26 Apr
    I am beginning to think I may be one. I'm 75 and I've never needed more than about 6 hours, but in recent years maybe Less and I've done fine. This past 6 months, however, I've been waking up at about 4-5 (go to sleep around midnight). I'd be happy to know i"m a short sleeper, but I think I'm somewhere in-between. I just went to a sleep clinic and they want me to restrict sleep for five hours and see what happens. It would be a relief to know my sleep is not pathological; only unusuaL. Do short sleepers need even less sleep as they age?
  6. 6 Reilly Mcneill 19 Feb
    My average  Amount of sleep is around 4h I’ve been like this for years. I function fine I guess I have this aswell 
  7. 7 11 year old 01 Feb
    I also don't sleep often, and when I sleep more than about 4 hours I feel extremely tired all day. I have always enjoyed this as it gives me more time to read, and now that I've read this I think it's wonderful to know that this is normal for other people as well. I really enjoyed this article. Thank you to Patrick Murray for writing it
  8. 8 Mary 08 Nov
    I sleep 2 hrs at a time and if I get 5 hrs of sleep Its a wonderful night.  Ive been thst way since I was 9 yrs old. 
  9. 9 Zerrin 06 Nov
    I'm a short sleeper. Anything over 5 hours and I'm groggy all day. Not complaining. I get a slight headache if I sleep too much. (The only "headaches" I ever have.) I'm 43 and have been like this for decades. People constantly tell me I look way younger than my 43 years so I know it doesn't affect my aging... Lol!

    I'm also a very positive and upbeat person. Perhaps something to do with it?
  10. 10 Griff 10 Oct
    I am also a "short sleeper" in my 60's  have been successful in business and life generally -I am known as a very positive person and have little stress compared to most -I wake up in the early morning afte only 4 hours sleep and am feeling good and ready for anything  ....any other short sleepers with similar traits ?    
  11. 11 Lou89 28 Sep
    Hi I find that I can sleep more than 4 hours a whole day sometimes but I then find that I'm tired all day if I sleep more than 4 hours and I struggle to fuction well if I do. I experance maybe a normal level of being able to fuction on the recommended 8 hrs but it's almost high tend if I get just 4. The more sleep the worse I fuction like I can't focus on evenue making tea/coffee. If I have 4 hours (my sweet spot) it's like I can manage evening at once all day total diffrent person to being on 8ish hrs sleep. I'm curious to find out more and if any one elce finds this. I struggle to get to sleep to but this I think for me is more to do with mental helth ishues
  12. 12 night owl 06 Dec
    I'm writing this at 3.20am -I force myself to go to sleep later than 11 pm and wake 4 hours later. Im 66 and have been doing this since I can remember. I made a fortune owning a business that ran 16 hrs a day - I worked 2 shifts to my employees 1 . I went through a period of trying to "cure" myself with sleeping pills etc. Then realized  one day that I must just accept it -now I enjoy my extra hours. I would like to correspond with other short sleepers to see what else we have in common -for instance I am always positive and happy . Please email me -maybe we must start a #tag group or something similar 
  13. 13 AASM 29 Jul
    Christina - Even if you have the "short sleep gene," you appear to have an extremely delayed sleep phase. You go to sleep and wake up at times that are much later than most others. If this is causing you frustration, then you should talk to your doctor or a board-certified sleep medicine physician about strategies to advance your sleep phase so that you go to sleep and wake up at earlier times. A recent review by an AASM task force found that strategically timed melatonin may be helpful for adults who have a delayed sleep phase. Positive results have been obtained with a 5 mg dose of melatonin timed between 7 pm and 9 pm. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options as well as the potential risks and side effects of treatment.
  14. 14 Christina German 24 Jul
    Hi my name is Christina and I'm a short sleeper I stay up all night long watching things on my phone watching TV I don't get tired at all its 6:30 now in the morning and I'm still not tired I have to force myself to go to sleep I will go to sleep probably around 7 o'clock and I will get up around 11:30 in the afternoon I am 49 years old everybody says that I look like I'm in my 30s which makes me very happy I need to know if I have this Gene that makes you not sleep I tried to change it in the past and it's never worked if I get more than 4 or 5 hours of sleep then I will have bags under my eyes so if you have any suggestions I'm open to them thank you
  15. 15 Jen 14 May

    It never occurred to me that this was a natural biological occurrence.  I've been trying to force myself to sleep for 6 hours a night and struggling because my brain is ready to go after 4.  I regularly go to bed in the wee small hours of the morning, and still function normally all day.  Although I might never know if I have the gene mutation, I feel comforted by the knowledge that there could be a perfectly good explanation for not feeling the need to sleep so much.

  16. 16 jan 30 Mar
    Wow, so glad this is normal for some--a friend told me to look this up. I've slept short cycles ever since I can remember, even read books till the early morning hours through all my school years. I thought I was just power-napping to cram 8 hours of body rest into 4, now I think I may have the gene. Regardless, I'm up by dawn with my natural body-clock, bright and ready to go. I've never used an alarm clock, never even owned one. I've lived like this for over 60 years now and remain youthful, upbeat, positive, and quite healthy. Though I used to have concern fewer hours of sleep would catch up with me, maybe it's time to accept my longer days are Okay--I like my private time when everyone else is asleep!
  17. 17 Bonnie de la Cruz 24 Oct
    I'm 66 years old and people always commented that I am weird because I sleep 4hours or less a night. I don't even take naps during the day because I don't feel sleepy. My father was the same, so while everybody slept at night he would spend his time reading. That is how I got hooked on reading, too because with the lights out I would be very restless in bed. My mother use to say I was the baby who had very little need for sleep. Others always thought we had insomnia and I'm glad I read this article. Thanks.
  18. 18 ana jaen 18 Jul
    All my life I thought that I had to sleep for 8 hours, however no matter how I tried to sleep earlier it was impossible. Probably, it was  a habit  as a medical student . Now that I am a doctor I still have short sleep. I function well even with less than 4 hours of sleep but this is possible because I have a 30 minutes siesta after lunch. Thank you for this article.