- bbc world of news
How many hours of sleep per night does a human being need to be healthy? I bet you have answered eight hours, but that is not entirely true according to recent scientific findings.
“This is a misunderstanding. That’s like saying everyone should be 1.65m tall. And if you’re shorter than that you have a problem,” Louis Ptacek tells the BBC. from the Department of Neurology at the University of California, United States.
Not all of us need the same amount of sleep. to feel rested and deal with the day to day.
And it is not a matter of behavior or personal choice. It’s in the genes.
Some people are genetically designed to naturally get short sleep.
This means that even with sof4 to 6 hours of sleep at night they wake up rested.
“There are those who call them ‘elite sleepers’, and I think that makes sense. They function with much less sleep and they do it at a high level. And it is true that this is an advantage in the world of work in which we live,” he says. Dr. Ptacek.
larks and owls
For the past 25 years, Dr. Ptacek and his team have analyzed the sleep patterns of more than 100 families.
“In the beginning, all of our work was focused on what should be the criteria for calling someone a ‘deep sleeper.’
A person in advanced sleep phase is usually called, also, as morning lark. This is someone who goes to sleep early and wakes up early.
“There were people that caught our attention. They were extreme morning larks, but they stayed up too late to be part of our criteria.
It was clear then that there were families that were morning larks but also night owls“Ptacek says.
The existence of these people who could sleep for a few hours made the team from the Department of Neurology at the University of California understand that they were facing a very different type of condition.
They were sleepers who possessed a “natural short sleep”that allows them to get up early but also to go to bed late.
So far, four genes have been linked to “natural short sleep,” but there may be more.
The challenge is that these genes are very rare.
Dr. Ptacek estimates that one person in a thousand belongs to these “elite sleepers”.
The good news is that they can reveal the secrets of efficient sleep for all of us.
Studies carried out by Dr. Ptacek’s team have revealed that these sleepers have a much higher capacity for adaptation than other people.
“We have a strong impression that these people are healthier than average“, says the researcher and adds:
“They sleep much less and are still very functional, so they are perhaps sleeping more efficiently. The question is what does this mean?”
It may be that we are closer to the answer to this question.
In a new study, genes associated with “natural short sleep” were introduced into mice with Alzheimer’s disease. And the animals became more resilient.
“This is very interesting because it suggests that we can use this biological knowledge to therapeutic usesnot only in relation to neurodegenerative diseases, but also psychiatric diseases, diabetes, obesity, many cancers,” says Ptacek.
For the doctor, studying the dream is like a great puzzle of which we still do not have the definitive image:
“We’re still in the discovery process trying to find as many pieces of the puzzle as we can. What we have are these families, and in each family we can identify a gene and a genetic variant, and show that those genes are behind these traits.”
To be something most of us go through a third of his life doing, there is still a lot to understand when it comes to sleep.
“Something happens when we sleep that allows us to restore our functions and get up the next day and work well. If we can do better by understanding how sleep efficiency is regulated, this can have a huge impact on human health.”
* This note is based on a BBC Reel video. If you want to see it, click here.
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