It's no secret anymore that sleep patterns are strongly tied to overall health and well-being - including childhood development. Our brains and bodies do lots of important stuff during that time, and can't do important stuff well during waking time if it hasn't had enough. It's also no secret that some people just need less than other people. But there are also those (I plead guilty) who, when confronted by this health requirement, like to offer the I-need-less-than-others excuse even though I don't really know if it's true, whether less sleep is really affecting my health and performance or not.
All of that to preface the discovery of a gene that really does allow some to thrive perfectly well on only 6 hours per night. Before you claim "Aha! I am one of those people!", you should know that no, you are not, and neither am I. At least, chances are very, very good that we aren't.
The gene is vanishingly rare in humans, occurring in less than 3% of people.
So almost everyone who claims they only need six hours' sleep is kidding themselves. And the consequences of chronic sleep deprivation are serious, says Clete Kushida, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and director of Stanford University's Sleep Medicine Center. Sleep deprivation has been linked to an increase in motor vehicle accidents, deficiencies in short-term memory, focus and attention as well as depressed mood and a decrease in the ability to control appetite.
Ying-Hui Fu, a professor of neurology at UCSF...cautions that most people who habitually get less than eight hours sleep a night are only building up a large, dangerous, sleep debt.