Fascinating science shows genetics may determine how much sleep you need
(NaturalHealth365) Many believe that sleep has always been critically important to humans, both as a resource and a pure enjoyment source. Today, the gold standard for sleep is 8 hours per night. That, the scientific community assures us, is enough to feel rested and stave off various diseases.
Clinical studies have shown that ensuring you get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night keeps the immune system strong. However, new research shows that the kind of sleep you get might be more important than how much.
The amount of sleep people need depends on genetics, scientists claim
Rarely does quantity win out over quality, and the same is true for sleep. Researchers at UC San Francisco have discovered genes that regulate “elite sleep” in a lucky few humans. This allows them to get the rest they need in only 4 to 6 hours, where the majority of us need closer to 8.
Researchers have discovered the role of genetics and identified five genes that contribute to this elite sleeping ability, though they predict there are many more. They also stress that such people aren’t just surviving on reduced hours … it’s a true, healthy preference. And it comes down to what happens while they’re sleeping.
Here is why some people only need 4 hours, while others 8 hours of sleep every night
Most of us think of sleep as something that takes place in an inviolable window. Over the course of eight hours, our bodies go from tired and unfueled to recharged and ready to go. Yet thinking of sleep like this misses the point, researchers say.
It’s not about how long you’re there. It’s about what happens while you’re asleep. In this sense, sleep is more like a checklist, in which the body:
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- Heals cardiovascular tissue and blood vessels
- Removes toxic waste from the brain
- Reorganizes neural pathways
- Restores energy for use the next day
- Repairs damaged tissue
- Releases hormones
It’s the checklist of tasks that must occur during sleep that matters, not the length of the sleep window.
Can you become an “elite sleeper”?
For people who can get it all done in 4 hours, so much the better. Especially considering the rest of us – without favorable genetics – face health consequences for getting less than 6 hours of shuteye a night.
The secret lies in the genetic puzzle elite sleepers comprise. Scientists know that sleep is regulated by tons of genes. It is also regulated by many areas of the brain. That means when one area of the brain is injured or diseased, it is likely to affect sleep. This is the reason scientists hope to figure out why some people sleep so well, and by pinpointing the genes responsible, they hope to simulate that effect in people who need it.
What does this mean for you?
Although this research is certainly promising, it may only have a significant bearing on you later in life when Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia become more likely. For now, though, it’s simply important to keep getting those ZZZs.
Chances are you could stand to improve your sleep quality (and for most of us, quantity). If so, you can try herbs to help you relax, reduce sugar in your diet, and try to go to bed at the same time every night. In addition, eliminate your exposure to artificial light (from T.V., computers, or mobile devices) that inhibits your ability to produce melatonin, needed for sleep.
Simply put, a good night’s sleep will help you to detoxify the body, regenerate damaged tissue and protect your overall wellbeing. Make it a top priority, starting tonight.
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