If someone told you that there was a pill you could take to get by on less sleep, chances are that 99% of us would take it. Especially if it was proven that no health consequences would be suffered. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have identified a genetic mutation showing that mice needed less sleep, remembered better and suffered no other ill effects. The test subjects are a father and son who have been feeling fully rested on 4-6 hours of sleep, as opposed to the traditional 7-9 hours.
The professor in charge of the study has stated she is more interested in understanding healthy sleep and preventing diseases (like Alzheimer’s) but noted that the test subjects are sleeping efficiently. We need to take that knowledge, the “why”, and figure out how to make everyone sleep efficiently.
The notion that many people have is that they can get by on 4-5 hours per night during the workweek because of their busy schedule, and then “make up” for it on the weekends by sleeping more. This actually does not work, and ends up impairing overall performance. If you sleep a lot more on the weekends, it is indicative that you do, in fact, need more sleep on a daily basis.
We do have to keep in mind that there are social implications and trade-offs associated with this process, even if a pill were to become available in the future. There may be pressure to work more and take less time to unwind and relax. People still need down time, even if that means they aren’t actually sleeping.
Studies on the genes involved in sleep will continue, with researchers hoping to discover more pieces of the “genetic puzzle”.
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