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Genetic Mutation Enables Less Sleep 272

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the i-want-to-be-like-mork dept.
reporter writes to tell us that researchers are claiming to have discovered a genetic mutation that allows people to manage with much less sleep. One of the researchers hopes that this could lead to artificially reducing the amount of sleep required in your average human. "Although the mutation has been identified in only two people, the power of the research stems from the fact that the shortened sleep effect was replicated in mouse and fruit-fly studies. As a result, the research now gives scientists a clearer sense of where to look for genetic traits linked to sleep patterns."
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Genetic Mutation Enables Less Sleep

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  • by Imagix (695350) on Friday August 14, 2009 @03:03PM (#29069327)
    I can see these things coming up: 1) Companies requiring genetic therapy to retroactively apply this mutation to you. 2) Extending the work day as the workers don't need as much sleep
  • Define "manage" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CannonballHead (842625) on Friday August 14, 2009 @03:06PM (#29069373)

    What exactly does "manage" mean? Does that mean you actually are more efficient and your body works just as well with less sleep? Or does it mean your brain functions better when tired... or that you don't actually GET tired? Or does it simply mean you can go longer before you burn out completely. Or whatever.

    "Managing" and being "productive" are quite different... and subjective.

  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Friday August 14, 2009 @03:09PM (#29069405) Journal

    I came here to make a similar remark. A mutation like this would seem to be highly beneficial. Wouldn't you expect to see more of it in the population if it didn't have some downside to it?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 14, 2009 @03:12PM (#29069455)

    If this actually happened there would almost certainly be a massive increase in depression and suicides.

  • Sign me up! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BrookHarty (9119) on Friday August 14, 2009 @03:20PM (#29069553) Homepage Journal

    I have a co-worker who only needs 4 hours, He was actually studied in college for health issues, its amazing how much this guy can get done when only needs 4 hours sleep. Also beats the commute into work by coming in really early, while the rest of us are sleeping.

    Myself, 9 is good for me. I'd love to be able to only need 4 and wake up wide awake and in good health.

    As long as my boss doesnt make me work 16 hour days, sign me up.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 14, 2009 @03:23PM (#29069603)

    Does it really give such a large benefit?

    For countless generations humans have lived without the access to heating and lighting we have, while at the same time being highly reliant upon farming. I feel it's more a recent phenomenon that gives an advantage to those able to sleep less, with nighttime work, greater mental demends from work (as opposed to physical labour that puts you more at risk of injury at night) et al.

    I don't really see much in the way of selective pressure in favour of sleeping less before the modern age.

  • by frosty_tsm (933163) on Friday August 14, 2009 @03:26PM (#29069643)

    If this actually happened there would almost certainly be a massive increase in depression and suicides.

    Hasn't this already been brought on by industrialisation and modern society?

  • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Friday August 14, 2009 @03:31PM (#29069715) Homepage

    "Certainly, the eugenistic and racial ideologies that in the past humiliated man and provoked immense suffering are not being proposed again, but a new mentality is creeping in that tends to justify a different consideration of life and personal dignity . . . The tendency, therefore, is to give precedence to the active faculties, to proficiency, to physical perfection and beauty, to the detriment of other dimensions of existence that are not thought to matter. This weakens the respect that is due to every human being, even in the presence of a developmental defect or a genetic illness that could be manifested at some point in his life . . "

    ... or when they don't want to be infused with the "latest and greatest" trendy genetic therapy.

    (Pope Benedict XVI, with regards to human dignity in the face of genetic enhancement technology)

  • by phorm (591458) on Friday August 14, 2009 @03:33PM (#29069735) Journal

    I wonder about the average level of sleep we get nowadays, how much we need as we age, sanity issues, and more.

    At the moment, sleep deprivation can lead to some nasty psychological issues. It says that the mice "recovered quicker from periods of sleep deprivation compared with regular mice", but does that mean that they just jumped to work quicker and less sluggishly, how about mental health? I'm guessing it becomes a quality VS quantity issue. I know that when my allergies act up, I don't breathe as well, and even though I sleep slightly longer durations I feel less rested than less sleep with clear sinuses. The breathing issues would then cause sleep-apnea [wikipedia.org] related issues.

    Another thing I would like to see here is the "depth of sleep", such as REM, etc. If the gene actually modifies it so that the mice hit an optimal sleep depth more quickly, that might more sense. I've often found that if I consistently go without enough sleep I get sluggish, but sometimes if I really wear myself down, stay up really late, and then hit the sack when I'm just about ready to drop, I sleep *EXTREMELY* deeply and feel more rested on 3-4h of sleep than 7-8 hours. On people that get by very well on low sleep, I'd be willing to bet they measure a noticeably different EEG frequency (and possibly other factors such as blood-oxyen level), with a pattern more like a sharper curve towards deep sleep.

    This would indicate a "quality" issue rather than a quantity. It would also make sense in an evolutionary sense. Yes, longer sleep means perhaps a longer duration of potential vulnerability, but a longer less-deep sleep be trading depth for recoverability.
    E.G. if a large predator comes stomping up when you're at level 5/10 sleep, then you have a good chance of waking up and getting the f*** out of there even though you're out for approx 8h. Alternately, if you're out for a 3h super-nap, and at 9/10 depth for most of that, perhaps the potential for being gobbled up during that period is greatly increased?

  • by Whorhay (1319089) on Friday August 14, 2009 @03:34PM (#29069759)

    Have you been checked for Sleep Apnea. I seem to remember seeing results from a study that up to 40% of the worlds population might have it to some degree or another.

    I have Mild Sleep Apnea which means I don't warrant an expensive C-PAP machine but I do wear an oral device to help keep my airway unrestricted. A friend of mine has Severe Sleep Apnea and he has to use a C-PAP or he'll sleep for 12+ hours and still be exhausted.

    Even with my device I pretty much never wake up feeling refreshed though. It's always a drag to get out of bed and get going, unless there is something I am very excited about doing that day.

  • Re:X-Men (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Goldberg's Pants (139800) on Friday August 14, 2009 @03:51PM (#29069991) Journal

    It is rather disturbing.

    Of course you know what will happen. They'll make it so people need less sleep so they can work longer.

    Not like they'll be allowed to spend their new awake time on leisure. "Hurray! We can now work people an extra 20 hours a week!"

  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <`gro.todhsals' `ta' `deteled'> on Friday August 14, 2009 @03:53PM (#29070025)

    If you want to slit your wrists, would you do me a little favor before you do it?
    Please just take as much politicians, lawyers, marketing managers and phone sanitizers with you as you possibly can. ;)

  • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Friday August 14, 2009 @04:00PM (#29070125)

    Not everything is a slippery slope. Not all technology leads to dystopia. In fact, these things are rare in an open society.

    For instance, if you read the article the two women get 6 hours a sleep nightly. Err, I do that, but I prefer 7. I dont need 8-9 as the article suggests. Sure, they probably get better sleep then I do and feel more refreshed, but you inserted that gene into me it wont lead into any big changes.

    This isnt exactly discovering a gene that can let us get by with 2 or 3 hours a night. Its shaving off maybe one. I wouldnt be surprised to find out that this gene really does fuck all for the average person.

  • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Friday August 14, 2009 @04:37PM (#29070639)

    >Pope Benedict XVI

    The guy who is against condom use in Africa, runs his own country, believes non-christians deserve eternal torment, and walks around with a solid fucking gold staff while lamenting the world's poor?

    Sorry, we dont need someone with a 13th century worldview telling us what to do. Between secular moralists, secular ethics boards, FDA, AMA, et al, we are doing fine thanks. Men in dresses who think they talk to the invisible men in the sky arent helping. In fact, historically they've only hurt society.

  • by GooberToo (74388) on Friday August 14, 2009 @05:22PM (#29071169)

    Most studies already indicate a work week of 30 hours is roughly as productive as 40 hours for most workers. Extending the work week only creates more web browsing and porn at work, not to mention additional cost to business but not likely to actually be more productive.

    Meaning, for most workers, you're *lucky* to get six productive hours out of them every day.

  • Re:Hypocrisy (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 14, 2009 @07:10PM (#29072167)
    I'm pretty sure there's a line somewhere between living reasonably in one's society and being filthy rich and walking with a gold stick.
  • by Vexorian (959249) on Friday August 14, 2009 @08:46PM (#29072849)
    Holy ad hominem batman! Why did you jump on the defensive so fast? You know that you can agree with what the pope said in that paragraph and not necessarily be against condoms in Africa, right? I think that in this case he was completely right.

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