What is the Short Sleep Gene and How Does it Affect Sleep Duration?

Feel rested on less sleep? Learn about the short sleep gene and how it impacts sleep duration, efficiency, and resilience to sleep deprivation.


Are you one of those rare people who can function on only six hours of sleep per night, while your friends may need up to eight to feel the same energy level in the morning? If this sounds like you, you may have the short sleep gene. This gene was discovered in 2009, but studies have been conducted on this new development over the past decade. Ultimately, research is still being published, but to many, it’s clear that the short sleep gene has a unique effect on sleep duration. 
In this article, we’ll explore the short sleep gene and how it affects sleep duration, including limiting the sleep needed, creating more efficient sleep patterns, and even making you less likely to suffer from sleep deprivation. Are you ready to learn more about this exciting genetic finding? Let’s get into it! 

What is the Short Sleep Gene? 

The short sleep gene, discovered by a UC San Francisco neurology professor, is a common mutation in natural short sleepers. These are the individuals you commonly see going to bed by 11 p.m. and only needing to wake up by 5 a.m. to feel the same energy level as someone who goes to bed at 10 p.m. and wakes up at 6 a.m. The specific gene that causes short sleepers is DEC2 or hDEC2, and studies are still being conducted to see how it impacts people’s overall health. 
People with the short sleep gene get six hours or so every night but demonstrate no adverse side effects, at least not those expected from others who may need more sleep. The short sleep gene, as you’ll come to discover, affects sleep duration in three distinct ways.  

How Does It Affect Sleep Duration? 

The short sleep gene can impact your overall health in many ways, including enhancing stress responses and more (Source: PubMed). However, by solely focusing on sleep duration, the short sleep gene has been proven to reduce your overall sleep time, create more efficient sleep cycles, and even encourage your ability to avoid sleep deprivation over time.  

Reduced Sleep Duration 

It is no secret that—given the name of this particular gene—the short sleep gene would encourage shorter sleep duration. Because many of these individuals with the short sleep gene only need about four to six hours per night, many researchers have confirmed that the gene creates shorter sleep duration. Specifically, the average that many have reported is only 6.25 hours—almost two hours less than ordinary individuals who do not possess the short sleep gene (Source: Brain Science Advances).  
Additionally, the study also showed the reason why this happens. Those with the short sleep gene actually have unusual patterns of neural activity that lead to increased wakefulness and more alertness even after a brief sleep duration. So, if you have the short sleep gene and find yourself going to bed at 10 p.m. but waking at 4 a.m., you’re not alone. You’re one of the lucky ones who does not need a total of eight hours to function or a full eight hours to enjoy efficient sleep patterns that benefit your overall health.  

Efficient Short Sleep Patterns 

Those with short sleep genes don’t just enjoy needing less rest, but they’ll also enjoy more efficient short sleep patterns. While others might need more time to complete their sleep cycle, you’ll enjoy less time spent in bed and more time spent up and enjoying the day. If you have the short sleep gene and are even identified as a carrier of this genetic abnormality, you’re more likely to sleep more efficiently for one reason: less sleep pressure. 
Several studies on both human and non-human subjects have shown that needing less sleep leads to less likelihood of sleep deprivation—as we’ll explore in depth next—and less sleep pressure. A marker of sleep pressure raises during NREM sleep for those with this gene but drastically falls, meaning that these individuals can actually transition out of sleep faster. Therefore, you’ll enjoy better sleep because you’ll have less of a transition as you wake up and start your day (Source: PubMed).  
This is excellent news for those with the short sleep gene because they’ll not only enjoy less sleep for the same energy levels, but they’ll also have more efficient sleep patterns than others! Ultimately, this—along with less needed sleep—leads to a critical effect on sleep duration: resilience to sleep deprivation.  

Resilience to Sleep Deprivation 

Because short sleep gene carriers sleep more efficiently and often with far less sleep required, you’ve likely already concluded that they are less likely to experience sleep deprivation. Where an ordinary person needs eight hours of sleep per night to feel their best and avoid the frustrations of sleep deprivation, short sleep gene carriers are fortunate.  
Sleep deprivation’s long-term adverse impacts are much less likely for this population, so you’ll enjoy better sleep as time passes and improved overall health (Source: ScienceDirect). Sleep deprivation can lead to many chronic and life-threatening issues, including a more substantial risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and more. So, if you’re a short sleep gene carrier, you’ll, fortunately, avoid many of these potential risks, ensuring you’ll enjoy better sleep—and health—because of your genes! 

Final Thoughts on the Short Sleep Gene  

Not everyone can be blessed with excellent genes, but those with the short sleep gene may feel like they’ve hit the jackpot. With less sleep needed, better sleep efficiency, and less risk of sleep deprivation’s harmful effects, what more could you ask for?  
Even though you only need up to six hours of sleep per night, always prioritize your rest so you can live a healthy, balanced life. What do you notice about your sleep patterns if you have the short sleep gene? We hope this article was informative and beneficial in helping you understand how you sleep.  


Written by

Marie Soukup

Marie Soukup is a seasoned copywriter, editor, and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach with a certificate from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN). With years of experience working with brands across diverse industries, Marie is passionate about holistic health and crafting compelling content.

Copyright © Neybox Digital Ltd.