If I had my choice of superpowers, I think I’d turn down invisibility, super strength, and even flying (so overplayed) in favor of one basic wish: To be able to thrive on little-to-no sleep. I mean, can you imagine the world crises you could solve, the number of yoga classes you could take, and all the Netflix you could watch with eight surplus hours in the day? Well, it turns out that while no one has the gift 24/7 consciousness, a small percentage of people have been found to possess a “short sleep gene” that allows them to operate normally with less than six hours of sleep a night.
These so-called “sleepless elite” share a rare mutation of the DEC2 gene (which helps time your body’s circadian rhythms) with an estimated 3 percent of the population, reports Sleep Education. While the trait has only been analyzed in two studies so far, the most recent one—which was published in 2014—suggested that these Cullen-esque humans not only snooze less than their counterparts, they may operate better cognitively, too.
In a comparison of 100 sets of identical and fraternal twins recruited from the University of Pennsylvania, researchers found that twins with the gene variant naturally slept about one hour less than their counterparts. Then, they tested their cognitive function over a period of 38 hours of sleep deprivation using the Psychomotor Vigilance Test. Those with the variant performed fewer lapses of performance on average than those without it and required less recovery sleep afterward. As Renata Pellegrino, PhD, senior research associate in the Center for Applied Genomics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia phrases it: “The mutation was associated with resistance to the neurobehavioral effects of sleep deprivation.” (Talk about #blessed.)
“The mutation was associated with resistance to the neurobehavioral effects of sleep deprivation.” -Renata Pellegrino, PhD
Sure, it’s totally possible for the other 97 percent of us to grit our teeth and have a successful day after an abysmal night of shut-eye. But I still can’t help but think of what I might do with two extra hours of life each day. So if you do discover that you have this DNA leg-up, consider me jealous.
The U.S. army uses this genius technique to fall asleep in two minutes or less. And if you’re still not dozing, try one of these expert-approved trick instead.
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