Lifestyle

Elite sleepers: are you one of the people genetically programmed to need less sleep?


Name: Elite sleepers.

Age: As old as humanity.

Appearance: Currently even smugger than usual.

Oh God, what now? This is a time for wild celebration! Science has just proved that so-called “elite sleepers” are less likely to develop dementia.

I’m an elite sleeper, in that I never get out of bed. Oh dear, I’m afraid you’ve got it wrong. An elite sleeper is someone who needs less than six hours’ sleep a night.

What the hell? It’s true. Approximately 3% of us are classified as “familial natural short sleepers”, which means we can wake up long before dawn and get on with our day. We can meditate, or work, or bake. Incidentally, would you like a cookie?

Did you make them? At 3am this morning, bright eyed and bushy-tailed.

This is exactly why we don’t get along. If it helps, I’m only an elite sleeper because of a fluke of genetics. The University of California, San Francisco has looked into it, and identified my ability to exist without sleep as mutations in the genes DEC2 and NPSR1.

Slow down, I just woke up. Most people, if they get less than six hours of sleep a night, are at increased risk of cognitive decline. But guess what? Not us!

Wait, what? DEC2 and NPSR1 are linked with a slower buildup of amyloid plaques, and a reduction in “tau pathology”, both of which are linked to dementia.

I really hate you. You shouldn’t hate me. This is great news! It means that science has started to home in on specific genes that can prevent dementia, and this may well lead to more effective dementia treatment in the future. Don’t you see, we’re saving you! We’re the best of us!

Not so fast. I’m just Googling famous examples of elite sleepers … No, you don’t have to do that.

It says that Margaret Thatcher barely slept at night. Yes, but sadly she did develop dementia in later years.

And inventor Thomas Edison was also an elite sleeper. Wasn’t he accused of being a bully and torturing animals? Yes, but look at all he achieved in his life, despite his poor record of decency.

There’s one more name on the elite sleeping list. No, it’s OK, you can stop it now. Wow, is that the time? I really ought to be off.

Donald Trump. Sorry, I didn’t hear you. I was yawning. Wow, so sleepy all of a sudden!

It’s too late, you can’t pretend you’re not an elite sleeper now. You’re genetically identical to Trump. Not me! I love sleeping! I’m sleeping right now! Zzzzzz.

Do say: “Elite sleepers might cure dementia.”

Don’t say: “But that doesn’t make them any less obnoxious.”



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