Sleepy . . .

View of a man sleeping in a sleeping bag in rural scenery
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MARGARET Tatcher famously needed just four hours sleep a night during her time as Prime Minister of Britain.But her ability to run the country on such little rest may have been due to her genes rather than her iron will. Scientists have identified a single gene mutation which they say explains why some people can function normally despite sleeping far less then the rest of us.

But they also warn there may be a price to pay – being born to sleep less seems to increase the likelihood of an early death. A study at Wisconsin University Medical School in the US looked at the sleeping habits of fruits flies, which share many of the same genes as humans and have similar sleep patterns.

Like us, most fruit flies sleep for between 6 to 12 hours a night. They sleep less as they age and, when deprived of a good night’s rest, tend to sleep longer and more deeply the next night to make up for it. Previous research has also shown that caffeine has the same stimulating effect on the flies as it does on humans, potentially disrupting their sleep.Analysis using electroencephalogram machines also showed evidence in flies of the same electrical changes that occur in human brains as we switch between sleep and waking.

Lead author Dr Chiara Cirelli said most people sleep for 7 to 8 hours a night, if they have much less, their ability to go about their lives and perform simple, everyday tasks suffers.
However, a few are able to cope perfectly adequately on just 3 to 4 hours sleep a night and studies suggest this traits may run in families.

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