People Who Claim They’re Fine With Little Sleep May Be Fooling Themselves

Sleep's a mystery, but this study reveals worrisome new patterns

Attention everyone who’s smugly proclaimed that they “just don’t need a full night’s sleep.” You might have fooled us coffee-chuggers before, but now there’s evidence that you’re not quite superhuman.

According to a new paper published in the journal Brain and Behavior (via Medical Xpress), University of Utah researchers studied patterns in the 839 people, dividing them into two groups: those who slept six hours or fewer per night, and those who got more.

They then divided the short sleepers into two more groups: those who felt fine during the day, and those who reported feeling drowsy.

When they put them in the MRI scanner — a dark, boring tube of white noise (perfect for a little nap) — both sets of short sleepers showed signs of sleep in their brain patterns while getting scanned. These cheaters were micro-napping!

“This leaves open the possibility that, in a boring fMRI scanner they have nothing to do to keep them awake and thus fall asleep,” says University of Utah neurologist Christopher Jones.

They note that this hypothesis shows public safety could be at risk, because mundane tasks like driving a car could put a sleep-deprived person into nap mode without the person realizing it.

It’s still possible that short-sleepers have extra-efficient brain, and are doing the work of long-term memory storage and clearing brain compounds during their waking lives; and have enhanced connectivity between external sensory perception and the hippocampus’ memory storage functions. Why we need sleep at all is still a big mystery.

More research is needed, as the authors of this study acknowledge, with plans to directly test how those claiming to be “doing fine” on so little sleep are really feeling and functioning.

Sloth yawning

This sloth knows when he needs 18 hours of sleep.

(H/T: Medical Xpress)