Short Sleeper Syndrome — Why Some People Need Little Sleep

For humans, sleep plays an important role in health. It enables people to think clearly, function effectively, and provides an opportunity for the brain to wash itself. Most adults require between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, but some people get as little as 5 or 6. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, for example, claimed she only needed to sleep 4 hours a night. It has been suggested that such individuals could have “short sleeper syndrome” — a condition in which people can achieve the same level of rest as a conventional sleeper but in a shorter period of time. Is it possible for a person to get less than the recommended amount of sleep without impacting their health and well-being? The answer is yes. People with short sleeper syndrome don’t suffer any adverse effects such as excessive sleepiness, cognitive impairment, or lower mood during the day, with a short amount of sleep (6 hours or fewer) being sufficient for their own personal physiology. Scientists believe the genetic factors determine who is and isn’t a short sleeper, so it’s not something people can train themselves to do.