Not everyone requires between seven and nine hours of sleep each day to function effectively, says a group of researchers from the University of Utah.
Published in the journal of Brain and Behavior, the findings from their research suggest that it is possible to be a “habitual short sleeper” and still be normal.
The researchers examined the network of connections within the brain of 1,200 people using functional magnetic resonance imagine (fMRI) scans as they slept.
Subsequently, the group was divided into those who sleep six hours or less a night and those who slept more than six hours.
The habitual short sleepers were further divided into groups that usually felt too drowsy to perform common tasks and those who said they could function normally.
It was discovered that short sleepers had “enhanced connectivity” between where they process sensory information, the hippocampus, and memory.
“This is tantalizing evidence for why some people feel like they don’t need to sleep as much. Maybe some brains are able to do what sleep does in little tiny epochs during the day”, said Jeff Anderson, the study’s co-author and a radiologist at the University of Utah.
“It’s one of the most interesting questions in all science: Why do we sleep in the first place? It’s incredibly disadvantageous to spend a third of our life asleep. There must be an important reason to do it, but why is still an active field of research”, Anderson added.
He further explained that short sleepers may be able to perform sleeping memory consolidation while they are awake, which reduces their need to sleep for long hours.
“Most people feel terrible when they get less than six hours of sleep,” says Paula Williams, a psychology professor at the University of Utah and co-author of the study.
“Two people can sleep the same amount and one person feels refreshed and one does not. What’s the difference? Are there some people who can get away with less sleep? We don’t know. Amazingly, we still don’t know.”
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