The 8-hour sleep rule 'is a MYTH' – here's how much sleep you might really need

SLEEP is imperative for our overall health and wellbeing and helps us to feel refreshed after a long and busy day.

Most people think that eight hours snooze is the optimal amount of kip – but experts have said that this isn't actually the case.

Official NHS guidance states that adults need between six and nine hours sleep every night.

But what makes people human is their differences and this is everything from the sort of job you do to the amount of exercise you partake in each day – all of which can have an impact on your sleep.

However – it's what lies beneath that actually makes a difference when it comes to sleep – not your lifestyle.

Writing in the iScience journal, experts in San Francisco, US, said that it's all down to your genes when it comes to how much sleep you need.

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They stated that some people are 'elite sleepers' who show psychological resilience and are resistance to neurodegenerative conditions.

These people may only need four to six hours sleep, the experts said.

This discovery they said, could help lead the way to fighting neurological diseases such as epilepsy and Alzheimer's. 

Lead author of the study, neurologist Louis Ptacek said: "There’s a dogma in the field that everyone needs eight hours of sleep, but our work to date confirms that the amount of sleep people need differs based on genetics.

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"Think of it as analogous to height; there’s no perfect amount of height, each person is different. We’ve shown that the case is similar for sleep".

The team have been studying sleep patterns for over ten years.

They studied people with Familial Natural Short Sleep (FNSS), the ability to function fully on—and have a preference for four to six hours of sleep a night.

This condition runs in families and the team have identified five genes that play a role in efficient sleep.

To gather their results they looked at elite sleepers and their risk of developing conditions such as Alzheimer's.

It's important to note that this study was conducted on mice and not humans.


They bread mice with certain sleep genes and measured their risk of dementia.

They said they would need to repeat the study in mice with other neurological conditions in order to understand how improving peoples’ sleep could delay progression of disease across a whole spectrum of conditions.

They did however state that studying the genes linked to sleep would be like a 'thousand piece jigsaw puzzle'.

The experts explained: "Sleep problems are common in all diseases of the brain.

“This makes sense because sleep is a complex activity. Many parts of your brain have to work together for you to fall asleep and to wake up.

"When these parts of the brain are damaged, it makes it harder to sleep or get quality sleep.” 

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While it will take a while to identify all the genes, they said at least one they uncovered could be targeted with existing drugs that might be repurposed.

They added that there is hope that in the next decade they will have new treatments that allow people with brain disorders to get a better night’s rest. 

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