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Why Some People Sleep More Efficiently Than Others + Why It Matters

Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer
By Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.
Image by iStock
March 17, 2022
Sure, Valentine's Day and Halloween are fun, but World Sleep Day (March 18) is basically our holiday of choice over here at mbg. We're celebrating with a week full of tips to help you achieve the restorative rest you've been dreaming of. Brew a cup of tea and get cozy, because Sleep Week is officially here.
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The general guidelines for sleep suggest we all ought to get around eight hours per night, but according to a new study published in the journal iScience, this isn't always the case. Here's what the researchers found, plus what it means for sleep hygiene going forward.

Studying "Familial Natural Short Sleep" (FNSS).

For this study, a team of neurology researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, wanted to build upon existing research on Familial Natural Short Sleep (FNSS). Previous research on this phenomenon indicated that some people naturally function just fine on only four to six hours of sleep—while others, of course, do not.

In an episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, board-certified sleep specialist Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., touched on this discrepancy too, noting that he's seen it come up time and time again in his work. "It's so personalized and it's so different for everybody—eight hours is not necessarily what everybody needs," he told mbg.

This ability to function on less sleep seems to run in families and can actually be identified by five specific genes. Essentially, those with FNSS sleep more efficiently because their brains are able to achieve the restorative effects of sleep in a shorter window of time.

Since we've long known that high-quality sleep can support overall well-being, the researchers looked into the long-term brain health of mice with FNSS.

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What they found.

In this animal trial, the researchers found that the mice with FNSS still enjoyed the neuroprotective benefits of sleep. In other words, less quantity of sleep doesn't necessarily mean less quality—according to this research, at least.

As neurologist and co-senior author of the study Louis Ptacek, M.D., notes in a news release, "Our work to date confirms that the amount of sleep people need differs based on genetics," noting, "Think of it as analogous to height. There's no perfect amount of height; each person is different."

The takeaway.

Those with FNSS may have won the genetic lottery when it comes to efficient sleep. But if you're someone who needs the more standard seven-plus hours of sleep a night, you're certainly in good company. Here are some tips to help you maximize every moment of it.

Sarah Regan
Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer

Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, as well as a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.