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Why You Probably Need More Sleep Than Rihanna

In a recent interview in Vogue, the singer Rihanna said that sleep is an issue that she doesn’t deal with much — citing evidence that she’s something that sleep scientists have dubbed, “a short sleeper.”

“I only sleep three or four hours a night,” the singer said from Paris.

So are short sleepers a real thing? Can they actually function as people on that amount of sleep? Are you a short sleeper? The answers to those questions are yes, sort of, and almost definitely not. These ideas are propagated by a new study that showed a genetic mutation which allows some sleepers to only get three to four hours of sleep a night. They also don’t need to take naps to make up that time later in the day. This is a blessing and a curse as short sleepers also physically can’t sleep more than five hours a day without becoming restless.

Short Sleepers Can be Erratic

“[Short sleepers] might have a propensity toward manic behavior — you’re high-strung, we might say ‘wired,’” says Dr. Donald Greenblatt, director of the Sleep Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

These manic episodes can manifest in many ways, but the highs and lows that short sleepers experience could adversely affect relationships, hurt business practices, and make it harder to concentrate during your waking hours. It’s not as simple as sleep less and live the life you’ve always wanted — with an extra four hours tacked on. It’s also so rare to find a “short sleeper” that it’s taken years of studies to find if they actually exist or not. Some studies suggest that as few as five percent of the population has the ability to short sleep.

“When you go into a shoe store, you don’t ask for the national average shoe size,” says sleep doctor, Matthew Ebben. “Some folks only need four hours of sleep, others need 12 hours.”

Short Sleepers are a Tiny Segment of the Population

And while it may seem like an ideal to only sleep for four hours, don’t try to convince yourself that you’re a short sleeper, it could be dangerous to your health. If you’re an average sleeper, but aren’t getting at least seven hours of your best sleep a night, it could lead to both long and short term health problems. Greenblatt says that going into this level of sleep deprivation has an effect that’s on par with binge drinking.

“With 24 hours of sleep deprivation,” he says, “your response time will be as bad as it would be after a six-pack of beer.”

So instead of wishing your time away, try to practice healthy sleep habits instead. Being a short sleeper doesn’t inherently mean that you’ll get more work done. Tons of business leaders in America have actually gone the other route, sleeping at least eight hours a day for optimal performance. Count Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, Ariana Huffington, and Lebron James as members of the pro-sleep club. As we all know, it’s not about the number of hours you’re awake, it’s about the quality of those hours. The fact is, getting more sleep leads to a higher quality of waking hours. Don’t be afraid to get a solid eight and feel the difference.


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