Scientists have been saying for years that 8 hours is the magic number needed for a good night’s rest. Most working Americans get less and it has a detrimental effect on health.
Ying-Hui Fu, Ph.D at the University of California, San Francisco along with a team of scientists* found a mother and daughter with a mutated gene (DEC2) which is somehow responsible for their ability to thrive on only 6 hours of sleep.
Scientists are still trying to unravel the mysteries of sleep.
Sleep remains a relatively inscrutable biological phenomenon. Scientists know that it is regulated in large part by two processes: 1) circadian rhythms—genetic, biochemical and physiological mechanisms that wax and wane during a 24 hour period to regulate the timing of sleep, 2) and homeostasis – unknown mechanisms that ensure that the body acquires over time the necessary amount of sleep, nudging it toward sleep when it has been deprived, prompting it out of sleep when it has received enough.
Genetically engineered mice who carried the mutated gene not only were getting less sleep in general, but also had a faster recovery time after a period of sleep deprivation.
The specific function of DEC2 remains elusive.
DEC2 could be involved in modulating “sleep quantity” alone, or it could be mediating both “sleep quantity” and “wakefulness-behavioral drive,” according to Fu. The latter drive, she says, is critical for the procurement of food, shelter, and mates and could be more potent in individuals with this mutation.
*Co-authors of the study are Christopher R. Jones, MD, at the University of Utah; Nobuhiro Fujiki, PhD, and Seiji Nishino, PhD, both of Stanford University; Ying Xu, PhD, and Jimmy Holder, MD, PhD, both at the time of the study in the Fu lab; Bin Guo, PhD, of the University of California, Berkeley; and Moritz J. Rossner, PhD, of the Max-Planck-Institute of Experimental Medicine.