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Sleep is for the weak.
April 6, 2011 7:54 PM   Subscribe

1-3 percent of the population may be natural "short sleepers" who function well on only a few hours sleep. Not only are these people both night owls AND early birds, they function perfectly happily on a short amount of sleep, without caffeine, without drowsiness. They're more energized, multitask more, are thinner, and are very cheerful and resilient. Sounds like Beggars In Spain wasn't too far off...
posted by jenfullmoon (81 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
My slothful, distracted, maudlin fat ass needs another nap.
posted by The Whelk at 7:56 PM on April 6, 2011 [16 favorites]


They're more energized, multitask more, are thinner, and are very cheerful and resilient.

*smacks them all*
posted by jonmc at 7:58 PM on April 6, 2011 [40 favorites]


Hey, short sleepers! Sunlight makes me feel tired, I get a burst of exhaustion at midafternoon and a sudden undesired pep-up at two AM, and left to my own devices I have to sleep for at least ten hours to feel remotely rested. Wanna trade?
posted by Scattercat at 7:59 PM on April 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


I am not one of those people.
posted by octothorpe at 7:59 PM on April 6, 2011


I was going to write something like "I HATE THEM," but then I see that's pretty much how "Beggars In Spain" begins. I think I need to read that book. After this cup of coffee and a nap, of course.
posted by biddeford at 7:59 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sunlight makes me feel tired,

The sunshine bores the daylights out of me.
posted by jonmc at 8:01 PM on April 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Man, I could play *so much* Dwarf Fortress.

And y'know, cure cancer and stuff too.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:01 PM on April 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


I know a guy like this. Totally caffeine (and drug) free, he sleeps from midnight to 4:30 am, gets up to surf, and then writes code all day long. He's been like this for the twelve years I've known him. I like to think the extra month and a half of sleep I've had in the same time frame just means I'll live longer.
posted by annathea at 8:01 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Left to my own devises I will wake at 2pm, be in bed by 4 and have a short nap sometime around 5.

It made performing every night very easy indeed despite the unkind vampire rumors.
posted by The Whelk at 8:02 PM on April 6, 2011


I'm by no means thin but I'm pretty sure I fit the description in other respects. Five hours a night is fine for me. The psychological profile is pretty much me too.
posted by unSane at 8:02 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


(I am *exactly* the guy who answers email and plays Quake/guitar while being interviewed)
posted by unSane at 8:04 PM on April 6, 2011


Obviously, these short sleepers need to do all the cleaning for us long sleepers to free up more time for us to fully realize our magnificent long sleeping potential.
posted by Dr. Zira at 8:04 PM on April 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


You short sleepers and your unrelenting love of reality. I get to spend 9 hours a night as king of the fantastical Land Of Dreams! How does your multitasking compare to that?
posted by The Whelk at 8:05 PM on April 6, 2011 [25 favorites]


Oh cool another article to make you feel like an evolutionary failure.
posted by spiderskull at 8:05 PM on April 6, 2011 [20 favorites]


I want a pill that will make me like this. But it can't interfere with my Klonopin.
posted by NoraReed at 8:05 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I want a pill

Modafinil?
posted by The Whelk at 8:06 PM on April 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


One of my best friends is like this. She functions absolutely just fine on three and a half hours of sleep, and in fact finds it hard to get more unless she's sick. She's the mother of two beautiful children, has an excellent and ambitious career, keeps a beautiful home, is a fine cook, and pursues many engaging hobbies.

I need seven hours of sleep a night, minimum, and really would prefer nine. So much for me.
posted by KathrynT at 8:07 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anecdatally, I slept a lot less once I stopped drinking so much coffee and exercised more. I know that sounds weird, but sleep quality as opposed to quantity makes all the difference for me. Four hours of great sleep is WAY better than eight hours of shitty half-sleep.

Four hours is pretty much my lower limit. I think it's because that's how long you need to get one decent episode of REM sleep. Once I've had that I'm basically good.
posted by unSane at 8:08 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I need an alarm clock to wake me after 8 hours of sleep. I'm not sure how long I'd sleep without it, days maybe.
posted by octothorpe at 8:08 PM on April 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


(Sorry to run on but I used to be a shitty, shitty sleeper and felt like a needed 10 hours a night, and it was totally to do with caffeine intake, stress and lack of exercise).
posted by unSane at 8:10 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


In other news, I may actually hate 1-3 percent of the population.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 8:10 PM on April 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


Yeah, major jealousy here too.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:12 PM on April 6, 2011


The WSJ article seemed weak on actual science, and there are a lot of caveats here as well: To date, Dr. Jones says he has identified only about 20 true short sleepers [seems like too small a sample to extrapolate much from].

Also, I saw no mention of age groups, and yet I believe most sleep researchers now agree that age is a big factor in sleep habits and physiological needs. Also, how does one factor out things like diet or psychological and/or cultural factors in order to isolate anything that might be inherent (vs. simply acquired) sleep behavior--i.e. I would think sleeping habits may have changed significantly between nomadic, agricultural and finally with the advent of industrial and modern life, etc.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 8:18 PM on April 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh, sure... left to my own devices, I sleep for 4 hours, too.*

The problem is, I'll need to do it again 8 hours later.

* Oh, freelance, the best and worst period of my life.
posted by Wossname at 8:20 PM on April 6, 2011


The longer I sleep, the more time I can be a Viking!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:29 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


People either think I'm like this, or I'm really lazy. I just have a completely different schedule than anyone else.

I do know someone like this. The only time I've ever known him to sleep is when he was drunk, but he doesn't drink so much anymore. He didn't even own a bed for the longest time, because he never used it.

He's also a crazy hard worker and management genius. He'd be wealthy now if he cared much about his own personal money. He's incredibly generous toward people who work for him, or do any work around him, especially service industry employees. I have gotten amazing, over the top service months, even years just for being seen with him once. "You're a friend of Ten Dollar Dave." Sometimes it's "Twenty Dollar Dave."

(On one memorable New Year's Day, I recall him brawling with his roommate - seems roomie and a fellow passenger had been a jerk to the cab driver, and Dave paid the driver $100 by way of apology. The roommate disagreed, and I had to break up some actual fisticuffery. )

But I digress. He just LOVES work, whether he does it or other people do it. On the schedule at our old job, regarding his availability he wrote "PREFERS TO WORK, BUT CAN SLEEP IF NEEDED." But he never slept, and would sometimes come in at ten in the morning and leave after four the next.

He's an odd fellow, that one.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:30 PM on April 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I only sleep so much because I'm such a viking at it.
posted by kaibutsu at 8:30 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think I am TURNING INTO one of these people. I'm a born night owl who's been forced to live on early bird schedule my whole life, but having to become a regular 8-5 worker (except for the four months of 7-4, that was bad) against my body's natural clock... well, somehow my body has become used to having to get up at the ass crack of dawn, and yet I still don't get sleepy and tired until midnight-ish. Plus I wake up a bunch of times to check the alarm and once I wake up around 5-6 a.m. for an alarm check, most of the time I am too awake (plus I think, fuck, just as I am falling back asleep again, I'm gonna have to get up, might as well get up anyway) to go back to sleep.

Okay, same shit I've always done there really, but now I don't even need the caffeine and I'm so freaking used to it. I woke up at 5 a.m. this morning freaking out about work stuff and just gave up and got up, and I'm fine allllll day and night. I do this almost every freaking night. I can sleep in a bit more on weekends so far (albeit maybe on out of the two days), but I think I'm evolving into this. I wonder what the science guys say on this. Were these 4-hour sleepers always doing that from birth on, or did it come on later in life?

It's pretty freaky. Great that I'm not passing out on the desk every day the way I used to, mind you, but freaky. And in general... yeah, I'm one of those extreme multitasker, probably has ADD folks. Honestly, I'm thinking that I'm just too fucking hyper to rest, and my body is very used to that, and maybe that's where these folks are coming from. The adrenaline's just pumping too hard to actually make anyone pass out for a solid 8.

I do wonder if Nancy Kress heard of this sort of thing before she wrote her book now. It's pretty eerie.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:33 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I need an alarm clock to wake me after 8 hours of sleep. I'm not sure how long I'd sleep without it, days maybe.

After a period of sleep deprivation in college, I slept for over fourteen hours in a row. When I woke up, I vomited. Turns out the body is not supposed to do that.

Ah, college.
posted by you're a kitty! at 8:36 PM on April 6, 2011


"There aren't nearly as many as there are people who think they're short sleepers," says Daniel J. Buysse

The book Sleep Thieves debunks many purported cases of short sleepers (Dali, Churchill, and Stalin). In most cases it was a combination of self-promotion and self-delusion, with many naps to make up for the short night sleep.

Short sleepers might be real but there is a large societal incentive to overplay one's sleep deficit as strength. Sleep deficits also lead to an inability to focus on long tasks -- multitasking without losing productivity is mostly an illusion. Self diagnosis without consulting a sleep lab seems pretty dubious.
posted by benzenedream at 8:39 PM on April 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


I need an alarm clock to wake me after 8 hours of sleep. I'm not sure how long I'd sleep without it, days maybe.

My personal record: 26 hours. It's a little freaky to wake up and think you've gotten 2 hours of really satisfying sleep, only to find out an entire day has come and gone.

For the record I need three alarm clocks.
posted by contessa at 8:41 PM on April 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


I've read all those sleep books and agree with most of them but as I say I believe sleep quality is of paramount importance. Although I don't sleep that long I have really good sleep hygiene, as they call it. I have a very low stress lifestyle and I don't lie in bed tossing and turning. If I'm awake I get up and do something. So if I get four and a half or five hours of sleep they are really solid hours, and it doesn't bug me to get up at 5 or 5.30 as opposed to lying around dozing for another couple of hours.

So like I say I feel for me the key thing is to get more than one full cycle of really good quality REM sleep, which is four to five hours of premium snore time. If you're lucky, you can get that in one 4-5 hour tranche. Otherwise it might take you seven or eight hours, an hour or two of which might be spent going to sleep, tossing and turning, and waking up.

In the end I think it's the same amount of good sleep, differently distributed.
posted by unSane at 8:47 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


My most was about 18 hours, when I was in college.
posted by stoneegg21 at 8:47 PM on April 6, 2011


I've done a full 24 hours of sleep after 72 hours of constant stress and wakefulness and it was probably one of the shittiest experiences of my life (was shooting a documentary on an aircraft carrier and our bunks were directly below the flight deck, which was running 24 hour sorties, so WHOOOM WHOOOM WHOOM every 30 seconds or so. In the cab ride home I became convinced I was going to die but, being English, was too polite to tell the cab driver.
posted by unSane at 8:51 PM on April 6, 2011 [12 favorites]


5 hours is about ideal for me. My mom has told me stories of reading to me in my crib -she would often fall asleep and wake up later in the night to see me rolling around and staring all googly eyed at the ceiling.

To this day, I still love to stare at ceilings.
posted by mannequito at 8:53 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


4 to 5 hours, that's all I need. I used to sleep 8 to 10 hours a night - until I started college at 30, with a family, full-time job and kids. After 6 years of sleeping 2 to 3 hours a day, my need for long periods of sleep went away. I simply cannot sleep more than 5 hours at a time in a 24 hour period.
posted by bradth27 at 8:57 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am definitely not one of these people. Nine hours please!
posted by PsychoTherapist at 8:58 PM on April 6, 2011


I average 6 hours a night, frequently wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning temporarily READY TO GO, (it's all over by about 9 am on those days) and am freaking exhausted all. The. Time.

I would positively murder to be an 8-hour sleeper.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:02 PM on April 6, 2011


More (anec)data points for short sleeping: not having a clock in the bedroom and not having curtains on the windows (we live in the country). Not having a clock means you are never clock watching and never wondering when the alarm is going to go off; not having curtains means you can instantly tell what time it is from the light in the sky. If there's any light, you get up.
posted by unSane at 9:09 PM on April 6, 2011


I'm like that unless I'm depressed (Where I could sleep for 20 hours a day easily.) I had a friend say to me yesterday that he thinks my life objective is to destroy free time. I don't know if I'd actually pass their test and fall into the grouping though. I think I'm more just really driven to do stuff I want to do and I don't really like sleeping.

The past year, a typical weekday at home is like this:
9am--
Wake up, make a 4 egg omelet and some oats while chugging 2 glasses of water. I usually do 3 sets of 10 pullups while I make my Omelet and read some news\check the weather on the laptop I installed under the counter in the kitchen.
9:30am-4pm-
Work and eat and internet. Sometimes cut work early then work late at night so I can go out and backpack or something else.
4pm-
Stop working or come back home. Preworkout meal.
5-6:00pm-
Lift, PWO shake.
6:45pm
Eat
7pm-12am-ish-
This block of time will usually be either playing hockey, going to a hockey game, watching hockey, being at 1 of 3 different bands rehearsals, preparing songs for said bands, sometimes indoor climbing.
1am-5am-
Personal projects, maybe more music, reading, internet.
5am-
Sleep
posted by zephyr_words at 9:09 PM on April 6, 2011


I don't know if I feel better knowing that's how all those damned overachievers manage, or worse because that will never, ever be me.
posted by Space Kitty at 9:09 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


My mom has told me stories of reading to me in my crib -she would often fall asleep and wake up later in the night to see me rolling around and staring all googly eyed at the ceiling. To this day, I still love to stare at ceilings.

And I like to fall asleep next to wide-eyed children.

Wait...
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:09 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I want a pill that will make me like this.

Meth.
posted by Forktine at 9:10 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


DAMN THEIR OILY HIDES
posted by Neofelis at 9:36 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


THIS JUST IN: 1-3% of global population slaughtered by fat, envious, sleep-deprived mob.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:43 PM on April 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Study: Some People "Confident", "Energetic"
posted by jeremy b at 9:58 PM on April 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Before you exclaim you're "one of them" without reading the article, don't forget this part:

Christopher Jones, a University of Utah neurologist and sleep scientist who oversees the recruiting, says there is one question that is more revealing than anything else: When people do have a chance to sleep longer, on weekends or vacation, do they still sleep only five or six hours a night? People who sleep more when they can are not true short sleepers, he says.

A lot of this sounded like me until I read this part, which definitely disqualifies from being a "true short sleeper". I thoroughly enjoy my 9 hours Friday and Saturday night.
posted by Defenestrator at 10:05 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love sleep. I love staying up late, and sleeping in later. I just can't do it anymore. I've always been a patheticly light sleeper, taking forever to get to sleep, and waking up several time every night. I've tried nearly everything, and to make matters worse, I'm woefully unable to nap well. Naps for me involve lying down, tossing and turning, sweating for unknown reasons, the getting up when the alarm goes off. Hell, I' pretty sure I've only been woken up by my alarm twice in the last three weeks, usually I'm awake five to ten minutes before it goes off. Instead of fighting, I just turn it off, get up, and start my day.

All of this, and yeah, I get roughly 5 hours of sleep a night. It's not enough, not for any definition of the word, but it's what I get, and I deal with it. I'm not thrilled with it, and I'm definitely not one of these super happy non-sleeping people. People who should be slaughtered indiscriminately.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:07 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


On preview (wait, damn), Defenestrator, hmm, maybe (except for the happy healthy thin energy part) I am one of them. I get up around 6 am most days, and my body clock has decided that this means I should get up at 6 am on Saturdays and Sundays as well. It's hard to punch your body clock, since, you know, it's in your body. Doesn't mean I haven't tried.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:09 PM on April 6, 2011


Defenestrator, I noticed that. Though I seem to be moving away from being able to sleep in that late, what with the body being all, "uh, work time?" at me at least on either Saturday or Sunday now. What the hell?! When am I ever supposed to catch up?

Yeah... I am also now a light sleeper. SO IRRITATING.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:14 PM on April 6, 2011


Ah yes, Beggars in Spain, which made C M Kornbluth's The Marching Morons look optimistic. (By the last book the majority of the population who hasn't had a ton of genetic modification ends up illiterate, on the dole, barefoot and pregnant, and dying in scooter races when they're not voting for their genetic betters.)

Though really, the part I found most hard to believe about that series is that the Sleepless spent all of their extra time working instead of goofing around. Maybe I just knew too many college kids who spent the midnight hours on MUDs instead of studying.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:22 PM on April 6, 2011


Hah, yeah, fifteen. I liked the first book, and then it uh... went WTF? by book 3. I am also still grossed out by the idea of my body munching on my own clothes all the time. Ew. Also, chilly.

But the first book still posted interesting questions, so I liked it for that. I just don't know what the hell was going on afterwards.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:28 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am awake now-taking a brief (ha!) Sanity break from this f'in appelate brief assignment due tomorrow-well, today. I run on 4-5 hrs max, bc of a full time job full of responsibility, law school and the crazy idea that lifting and running it out (I do get most of my reading done while running) make me less crazy. But, as the semester starts to close and I have federal and state filing deadlines at work...if one more person tells me I look tired and like shit, well, seriously, thanks, like I didn't know that? I love sleep. It's one of my favorite things. I can't wait until I get to do more of it.
posted by atomicstone at 11:09 PM on April 6, 2011


Tell us how you really feel, unsane.

/not a short sleeper
posted by cj_ at 11:11 PM on April 6, 2011


This depresses me because I have insomnia.

One thing that I have noticed: whenever I am sleep deprived (like 60% of my life), grabbing 1 hour is ultimately more satisfying than, say, 4 or 5 hours. Not sure why this is, but if I go longer than one hour, but sleep less than seven, I am fit for nothing.
One hour can refresh me. It's that or a full straight 9 hours.

In fact, I can often function far better after no sleep at all than if i only get 4 or 5 hours.
Strange.
posted by noella at 11:31 PM on April 6, 2011


BREAKING NEWS: The normal curve still exists!

In other news, outliers gonna outlie.
posted by Eideteker at 11:50 PM on April 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Like Ghidorah I get considerably less than the 8-9 hours a night my body needs, but I deal with it.

Surprisingly, my pre-teen son is one of these short sleepers. He always was, from the day he was born. All the baby books say babies sleep up to 18 hours a day, distributed throughout the day. I don't think he ever slept more than 7 hours a day. Ever. In the first few months people would always ask "Is he sleeping through the night yet?" He didn't sleep through the night until he was age 3, when he finally decided to stop raging a war with sleep (which he would always win--how???) and let his body get more than a few hours at a time.

Older now, he knows he is expected to be in bed for 9-10hrs. And he does. He'll wake up, and just lie there in his bed for the last few hours--sometimes sneaking a book or some Lego pieces to play with.

I just don't understand it, but what can I do? I can make him stay in bed but I can't make him sleep. It is just weird.
posted by eye of newt at 12:11 AM on April 7, 2011


I have a friend who says he only sleeps about 3 hours a night, I'll have to send him this article. When he told me and my boyfriend about it, boyfriend's response was "What?! why haven't you conquered the world yet?"
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:40 AM on April 7, 2011


I can't sleep less than 9 hours in a night without feeling terrible all day and collapsing in the afternoon to take a 2 hour nap. I guess that places me on the wrong side of the curve.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:11 AM on April 7, 2011


Christopher Jones, a University of Utah neurologist and sleep scientist who oversees the recruiting, says there is one question that is more revealing than anything else: When people do have a chance to sleep longer, on weekends or vacation, do they still sleep only five or six hours a night? People who sleep more when they can are not true short sleepers, he says.

To date, Dr. Jones says he has identified only about 20 true short sleepers...


If the above is true, there are less of these people out there than most people think. I mean, most of my NYC banker friends would be short-sleepers but I think they do it out of stress and cocaine rather than genetics.
posted by vacapinta at 2:19 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh great...Yet another study of a small, outlier group exhibiting an activity that dovetails nicely with our national obsession with being super-duper-extraordinary-epic-workers. I can multitask! I take my work home! I'm on call 24-7! Andn now, I can do it all 110% with only 3 hours of sleep!!!
posted by Thorzdad at 4:04 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I don't know about the "thinner" but this is basically me too. I go to bed at 10, but usually only because my wife would be sad if she had to go to bed by herself. I would probably naturally go to bed around 11:30 or 12. I get up at 5:30.
posted by DU at 4:43 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


In my house, we bracket "average" nicely. My wife always, always sleeps about two hours longer than I do. She just needs more sleep, period. Depending on the day and her schedule, she will either go to bed earlier or sleep in longer. I get up early and do my own thing (Hi MetaFilter!); she wakes up to breakfast made and things taken care of.

People are wired differently; I've known people who claim to need even less sleep than I do, and others who seem to sleep about as much as your average cat. I can imagine evolutionary advantages to having some light sleepers in the group, and presumably the heavy, long sleepers are getting something out of the deal, too.
posted by Forktine at 5:47 AM on April 7, 2011


I used to be a 9 hrs a night sleeper when I was younger, I now generally sleep 6-7 hrs a night, even at weekends I get up at the same time. Does this make me more efficient? I doubt it. Does mean the cat gets more quality time though.
posted by arcticseal at 6:34 AM on April 7, 2011


My personal record: 26 hours. It's a little freaky to wake up and think you've gotten 2 hours of really satisfying sleep, only to find out an entire day has come and gone.

Or going to class nice and early and finding you're in a chemistry lab because you slept an entire day through.
posted by bonaldi at 7:20 AM on April 7, 2011


Yes, another one of those things for people to lie about to themselves. "I have a nearly photographic memory." "I never get sick." "I am a great multitasker." "I'm a short-sleeper."
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:20 AM on April 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


I have a friend who needs 4 hours of sleep a night on average. I don't want to hate him for it, but I do. :)
posted by luvcraft at 8:02 AM on April 7, 2011


Now can someone find me a similar study on long sleepers?

More seriously, I've had various spells of several months at a time where I seemed to not need much sleep, had high energy and functioned as well or better than normally. But those spells don't seem to become permanent.

From what I can recall those spells are often associated with having some kind of peak or transformative experience. The kind of experiences that generate a feeling of: "I never thought that would happen for me!" or "Who knew I'd ever be able to do that!"

I'm wondering if these regular short sleepers are maybe just people that for whatever reasons - say a propensity to always be pushing the boundaries - have such experiences on a pretty regular basis.
posted by philipy at 10:14 AM on April 7, 2011


Just reading this thread makes me want to take a nap. Like right now. On my desk.
posted by devinemissk at 10:15 AM on April 7, 2011


> *smacks them all*
> posted by jonmc at 10:58 PM on April 6 [34 favorites +] [!]

According to contemporaries Leonardo da Vinci got by with four hours sleep a night for most of his life. (When he got very old he upped that to five.) And of course in addition he also got to be Leonardo da Vinci. But by now he's probably beyond smacking.
posted by jfuller at 11:00 AM on April 7, 2011


I've known a couple of people like this. During the day they were energetic to point of distraction. One guy would come in to my dorm room and sit at my roomie's desk and fiddle with everything on the desk, even opening drawers and rummaging through them. My roomie said he did this at my desk when I was out, too. We both figured that he had no idea he was even doing this. He was one of those guys whose legs would bounce up and down the entire time he was sitting.

You'd think that all this energy would somehow affect cognitive function, but he's a really good, decent, well adjusted guy too.
posted by Xoebe at 11:20 AM on April 7, 2011


According to contemporaries Leonardo da Vinci got by with four hours sleep a night for most of his life.

No wonder he was such a terrible procastinator and big talking do nothing. He was drowsy all the damn time.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:22 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember reading years ago... perhaps it was the Young Presidents Club [people who became president of a company before they were 30] or some magazine list ["50 Startups that have blazed to $50M in five years or less"]. But one common attribute for these Leaders was short sleeping. They woke up at 4 a.m. and went running, logged on to the stock exchange in other time zones. In addition to the high energy level and keen concentration, there are simply more hours in the day.

"secrets of Winners in 21st century US"
posted by ohshenandoah at 1:11 PM on April 7, 2011


After a period of sleep deprivation in college, I slept for over fourteen hours in a row. When I woke up, I vomited. Turns out the body is not supposed to do that.
That depends on the body. I can do fourteen hours easy. You know how some people get to the point where they can't sleep anymore? I don't know what that's like. I can almost always roll over and sleep for another two hours (and then another two, and then...)

My record was the 7 day stretch in college when I was up for 2-4 hours a day. Basically, I got up to eat and shower, and then went back to bed. (The less I eat, the more I sleep.) After which, well, ok, I went to see a doctor, 'cause that didn't seem healthy somehow. Turns out I have depression - who could have seen that coming?
posted by Karmakaze at 1:36 PM on April 7, 2011


I take 3 meds for bipolar, but before those, ten years ago, I was a lot like this. I still am on occasion, but Lamictal, Lithium and Depakote cut me down to size.
posted by nutate at 4:18 PM on April 7, 2011


This guy seems to think claims of da Vinci's sleep schedule are BS. Any da Vinci scholars around to provide the actual contemporary accounts?

/not wakeist
posted by benzenedream at 5:12 PM on April 7, 2011


I'm always kinda sleep deprived. I make up for it on the weekends. 'Course, the only things i need to do are sit in front of a desk and see bands, so it never matters if I don't sleep.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:25 PM on April 7, 2011


This is exactly the kind of wishful garbage I have come to expect from the Wall Street Journal (hell, it's Rupe -- should I be surprised?) More interesting than the subject matter of the piece is the tone of it, as if this were something we all aspire to, in our never-ending quest to get even MORE shit done.

There is a cult of no-sleep in the business world. It's a point of pride to say that you only sleep 12 minutes a night.

No thought given to the question of whether this is even desirable.

I liked this, from a Harvard Magazine piece from 2005 which I am sure has been linked umpteen times on Metafilter:

Not long ago, a psychiatrist in private practice telephoned associate professor of psychiatry Robert Stickgold, a cognitive neuroscientist specializing in sleep research. He asked whether Stickgold knew of any reason not to prescribe modafinil, a new wakefulness-promoting drug, to a Harvard undergraduate facing a lot of academic work in exam period.

...

“No—no reason at all not to,” Stickgold told the psychiatrist. “Not unless you think sleep does something.”


Everything comes at a price. Those short sleepers may not be aware they are missing something (who notices when they are missing something they've never experienced?) but rest assured, they are missing something.
posted by rhombus at 12:05 AM on April 8, 2011


I'm coming to suspect I might be best off sleeping 6 hours at night (I often have difficulty sleeping more) and another 2 hours in the middle of the day (which I rarely get to do.)

Ah, for the independent wealth to be a special snowflake...
posted by Zed at 9:31 AM on April 8, 2011


In my experience people who don't sleep more than about 5 hours are so impulse ridden and unaware they are dangers to self and others.

You can see this from the anecdotes in this thread, even.

Sleep deprivation experiments (and meth) seem to me to demonstrate that the longer you don't sleep the more you are functionally equivalent to a paranoid schizophrenic, and I think short sleepers tend to be pushed toward that end of the continuum, too.

The WSJ is less than worthless under Murdoch.
posted by jamjam at 10:53 AM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh great...Yet another study of a small, outlier group exhibiting an activity that dovetails nicely with our national obsession with being super-duper-extraordinary-epic-workers. I can multitask! I take my work home! I'm on call 24-7! Andn now, I can do it all 110% with only 3 hours of sleep!!!

Being in the military, I have to say that this sounds familiar. And I am definitely not a naturally born "short sleeper."
posted by DisreputableDog at 3:44 PM on April 8, 2011


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