how to sleep less. and why not

The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep. —E. Joseph Cossman

CC. Some rights reserved by IllogicalJake.

Apparently, about 2% of us really don’t need much sleep. That would be as opposed to the 30% who don’t get much sleep.

The Wall Street Journal describes “short sleepers” as those who literally get along fine on five or fewer hours of sleep. Researcher say for every 100 people who claim to only need five or six hours of sleep, only five actually do. (See The Sleepless Elite.)

The rest of us are merely sleep deprived.

The rare (lucky?) ones don’t nap and are generally optimistic, positive, outgoing and ambitious. They have been functioning on very little sleep since childhood. Lack of sleep doesn’t affect their moods, and they don’t need caffeine to keep going. Nor do they collapse on the weekend.

That rules out me and my three sons. And just about any teenage boy I ever met.

Short sleepers may have a very mild from of mania and there seems to be some genetic issues at play, since it often shows up in their kids. They go to bed after midnight and get up by 4 a.m., even when they can sleep in, like on vacation.

But you can’t teach yourself to be a short sleeper. The rest of us actually need seven or more hours. If you want to sleep less you will need new genes.

Certainly “all nighters” in college or other situations can create a temporary euphoria for most of us, but the evidence is pretty clear that over time such habits wear us down, reducing our immunity and our productivity. As one research told the WSJ, this temporary high is “all gas pedal and no brake,” resulting in poor decisions and eventual “recovery sleep.” Lots of it.

Not so with these short sleep energizer bunnies that just keep on going.

I spent years keeping on going. But I’ve paid the price, with diabetes and chronic colitis. One-third of Americans are sleep-deprived, regularly getting less than 7 hours a night. And experts say this puts them at higher risk of diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and other health problems.

Personally I have learned to take Psalms 127:2 more seriously:

It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Sure, I often wish I had more hours in a day. But I’m learning to make do with what I have.

So good night.

__________________________________
What would you accomplish if you only needed 4 hours of sleep?

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About wally metts

Wally Metts is the daysman. He is director of graduate studies in communication at Spring Arbor University and is a pastor at Countryside Bible Church in Jonesville, MI. The father of four adult children, he and his wife Katie raise barn cats and Christmas trees in Michigan. His grandchildren call him Santa.

5 Responses to “how to sleep less. and why not”

  1. I had a test yesterday in HPR class, in which I had to detail out the specific reasons why we need sleep, and the damages it can cause. In general, this has caused me to feel drastically less lazy!

  2. My father and brother are like that. I don’t know how many times my brother will come home well after I’ve gone to bed, and be gone and at work by 5 the next morning. I know he does come home, the hair trimmings left in the sink are evidence enough. He does this 6 days a week, never gets run down and is rarely sick. Dad, he gets home earlier and goes to bed earlier. He also gets up much earlier, typically, around 2am. He also always has energy and rarely gets sick. It makes me exhausted just thinking about it!

  3. well, now I can quit wishing in vain! thanks!

  4. I’ve always needed that 8 hours and didn’t have any trouble getting it until the last five years or so. I’m hoping one of these years my system will go back to “normal” and I’ll once again get those 8 hours per night. Meanwhile I’m chronically sleep deprived — and it usually shows. I’ve tried everything anyone has suggested but so far nothing has worked well.

  5. I’ve found that I need 9 hours, no matter what. If I try to sneek by with less it catches up to me and I get sick.

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