Are you a sleep lover or a sleep fighter? Many people see the time spent in bed (a full third of our lives) as a waste of perfectly good hours that could be spent on something more productive, and they do whatever they can to fight off sleep.
When you have a full plate and more to do than there is time to do it, you might find yourself wishing that you could train yourself to get by on less sleep – just like Margaret Thatcher or Salvador Dali, who both got by on less than five hours of sleep a night. But is such a thing even possible?
While the average American manages to get somewhere between six and nine hours of sleep, up to 20% of us manage to squeak by on much less. How do those few do it – simply changing their sleep schedule by forcing themselves to get less and less sleep until it becomes the norm? Sadly for those looking to scrounge up some extra productive hours in the day, it’s not that easy.
According to sleep researchers and scientists, there are a few rare folks that can function quite well on as little as five hours of sleep per night. These unique individuals have been dubbed the “sleepless elite,” and they have been studied by health and sleep experts extensively over the past decade.
It was discovered that this elite group of sleepless wonders carry a mutation of the gene called hDEC2, proving that at least some of your need for sleep (or a lack thereof) is controlled by genetics. Looks like the people who are on the lookout to be able to train their bodies to require less sleep are plain old out of luck.
But there’s no reason to feel bad about your lack of the hDEC2 mutation! It just means that you’re in good company, as you’re amongst the 80% of the population that has absolutely no shot of needing less sleep, no matter how much they might want to be able to say differently.
Simply put, missing out on sleep wreaks havoc on the human body. Not getting enough sack time can cause you to suffer from short-term loss of concentration, elevate your levels of distress and confusion, and it has even been associated with the risk of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Yikes!
So while it might seem as if you are losing out by not being able to train yourself to sleep less each night (without suffering any of the nasty side effects that come with sleep loss, that is), you’re actually doing yourself a huge favor by allowing yourself to get the sleep that you need to help your body and mind to function at peak performance.
Instead of thinking of the time you spend in bed as wasting a third of your life, take a stance like Winston Churchill – he enjoyed the benefits he received from getting a full eight hours of sleep each night so much that he would stay in bed until afternoon, working in comfort and even seeing visitors in his bedroom and not his office. And look how much he achieved!
So what’s the bottom line here? Unless you’re one of the sleepless elite and were born with the ability to shun the need to rest, getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night is the best thing that you can do for your mind, your body, and your career.