Back in 2011, The Wall Street Journal’s Melinda Beck identified an elite group of people, who claim to sleep far less than most of the rest of us…
The Sleepless Elite
These are the 1% to 3% of the population who thrive happily on just a few hours of sleep per night.
They are night owls and early birds simultaneously.
During the day they don’t need caffeine, or cat naps, as they are naturally energetic and upbeat.
Most recently, they have officially been identified as: “Short-sleepers.”
These folks naturally sleep less.
They are not like most of the rest of us who struggle with going to bed, usually winding up there late, and then struggle to get up early.
They are not like those of us who find it necessary to keep going “after hours” only because we have to mind, ’cause we still have to get up with the chickens.
A sleep authority by the name of Ethan Green wrote an article that said in part:
“Natural short sleepers are different from people who chronically do not get enough sleep because of work or family demands, or those who have medical conditions that disrupt sleep.”
Key word: NATURAL!
Their circadian clocks work differently!
They are not sleep deprived. They just don’t need to sleep any more than a few hours per night.
Many of these folks have been short-sleeping since childhood, and this curious feat often runs in families.
However, Melinda Beck also notes that “some people only believe they need less sleep than the suggested average of 7-9 hours per night.”
They pack their days and nights full of activity and convince themselves that five hours or less of shut-eye is enough to keep them healthy.
Caution: Most people doing this are more likely to experience severe symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation.
Only about five out of every 100 can function on less sleep with no consequences, and these are the sleepless elite.
The interesting thing about The Sleepless Elite is that…
- they get a “second wind” at night
- they prefer the quiet, and typically create best while the rest of the world is snoozing
- as long as they have something interesting and energetic to do during the day, they can stay wide awake, no cheating!
- they use the extra time they are awake to its best advantage
Here are a few people we may all have heard of that claim to be part of The Sleepless Elite.
Margaret Thatcher some people say, must have had a “Thatcher Gene.”
According to some who knew her, she didn’t sleep much at all.
Sleep Quantity Versus Quality
Regardless of the number of hours one sleeps, the quality of the rest matters even more than the duration.
Factors such as room temperature, mattress quality, and mental health can determine whether your sleep is actually restorative.
Could it be that the sleepless elite/short sleepers have found a way to make the short hours they do spend sleeping count for more?
Do they take rest and rejuvenation more seriously and plan accordingly?
Or is it in their genes?
In 2009, researchers at the University of California reported that they’d found a gene variation ‘hDEC2’ in a mother and daughter, who were both natural short sleepers.
They both routinely went to bed after midnight and woke up naturally at 4 in the morning.
The team replicated this gene in tests with mice and found that they then also needed much less sleep.
Personally, I get some of my best “ideas” in the dead of night too. I appreciate the quiet.
It’s as if the world is sleeping, and I’m the only one up.
There’s something so energizing about this for me.
I also seem to get a “second wind.”
This means I can be sleepy one minute, and ready to bust another move a minute later.
But…I must admit that even though I often go to bed around 3am, and get up only hours later…there are nights when I’m so miserably sleepy, I give up and get my butt in bed earlier.
Natural short sleepers sleep less because it’s part of their makeup!
Even some of the well-known professed short-sleepers of note slept less or are sleeping less now because it’s part of their current situation, not because they can only sleep less, it just fits their lifestyle right now.
Example: President Obama slept less during his term in office.
Other people of note slept, or sleep less while working on a big deal, which might last a couple of months or years, etc.
Martha Thatcher seems to have slept less because she was indeed, a natural short-sleeper.
Truck drivers may sleep less
Someone who works nights may sleep less
Can you think of other purposeful reasons to sleep less?
What about you?
Is short-sleeping a natural sleep pattern for you; possibly started in childhood, or do you have a reason for doing so that goes again your natural body clock?
Are you an owl or an early bird?