What kind of sleeper are you?

Normal sleeper, deprived sleeper or short sleeper?

In an interesting Wall Street Journal article (WSJ 4/5/2011) – “The Sleepless Elite: Why Some People Can Run on Little Sleep and Get So Much Done” by Health Journal columnist Melinda Beck – the author talks about the different sleepers and explains why for a small number of people getting a full night of sleep is a waste of time and the reasons behind it.

Normal Sleeper – Most adults have normal sleep needs, functioning best with 7 to 9 hours of sleep, and about two-thirds of Americans regularly get it. Children fare better with 8 to 12 hours, and elderly people may need only 6 to 7.

Deprived Sleeper/Wannabe Short Sleeper – One-third of Americans are sleep-deprived, regularly getting less than 7 hours a night, which puts them at higher risk of diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and other health problems.

Short Sleeper – Short sleepers, about 1% to 3% of the population, function well on less than 6 hours of sleep without being tired during the day. They tend to be unusually energetic and outgoing. Geneticists who spotted a gene variation in short sleepers were able to replicate it in mice—which needed less sleep than usual, too.

I would agree with the research findings. Short sleepers are energetic, outgoing, optimistic, very upbeat and ambitious. They are usually high achievers, because they do have more time in the day to do things and keep finding more interesting things to do than sleep. They’re thinner than average (I am sure they eat healthier than the average), even though sleep deprivation usually raises the risk of obesity. They also seem to have a high tolerance for physical pain and psychological setbacks.

Some examples of short sleepers are Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Leonardo da Vinci. They were too busy to sleep much.

According to the research in the article, out of every 100 people who believe they only need five or six hours of sleep a night, only about five people really do. The rest end up chronically sleep deprived.

One-third of U.S. adults get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night.

The article didn’t mention anything about diet. I think your diet also affects your sleep. If you eat light and healthy, you need less sleep. If you eat heavy and junky food, you are more easily get tired and need more sleep.

People who go on a vegan diet or do fasting often report that they need less sleep afterwards and feel more energetic.

I agree sleeping longer than 8 hours for adults is a waste of time. But some people may be wired differently and need more sleep than the average population.

My kids are normal or maybe “long sleepers.” On weekends, they can sleep past 9 or 10 o’clock if allowed. I can get inpatient if they don’t get up by 9 am. It does feel like a waste of time for me to sleep the morning away. 

I thought I am a short sleeper. I am a night owl and a not-so-natural early bird. I don’t go to bed until after midnight, sometimes well past midnight. I don’t take naps or load up on caffeine to get me through the day. I rarely get tired on 6 hours of sleep.

But after reading the article, I have to say I am not a natural short sleeper, for two reasons. On weekends, I tend to sleep a little longer since I don’t use an alarm clock to get me up. And on weekdays, I need an alarm to wake me up in the morning.

If I could put things into numbers and categories, I guess I am a 80% short sleeper and 20% deprived sleeper, that’s my own rough estimation :-)

Are you a short sleeper?

To find out if you are a natural short sleeper, ask this question that is more revealing than anything else: When you do have a chance to sleep longer, on weekends or vacation, do you still sleep only five or six hours a night?

And I would add another question: Do you need an alarm to wake you up every day?