There are some extraordinary people who can get by on about three-quarters of the amount of sleep that the rest of us need. One particular family has a mutation that allows them to function normally on just six-and-a quarter hours of sleep per 24 hour period. This family was studied by geneticists, who found that a single letter change from C to T on a single gene, ADRB1, was present in all the family members who happily got by on less sleep, and was absent in all the other members of the family. (Shi et al. 2019) Only 4 in 100,000 (or 0.004 percent of the population) is thought to have this mutation, so the team genetically engineered mice so that they would carry the same mutation. Mice with the mutation were more active and slept less than the mice without.
It’s hard to know how the mice felt about this, but according to Professor Ying-Hui Fu of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences who led the study, the people with the mutation tend to be more optimistic, more energetic, better multitaskers, are more tolerant of pain, and don’t get jet lag. According to professor Fu. ‘Natural short sleepers experience better sleep quality and sleep efficiency,’ she said. ‘By studying them, we hope to learn what makes for a good night’s sleep, so that all of us can be better sleepers leading happier, healthier lives.’ Forget trying to colonise Mars. This is the research that the billionaires should be funding.