Why Trump Only Needs A Few Hours Of Sleep Every Night

  • President Donald J. ’s doctor Tuesday said the president only sleeps about four or five hours a night.
  • That’s a lot less than the average seven or eight hours of sleep most people get.
  • While too little sleep can have unpleasant consequences for many, like headaches and stomach problems, a tiny percentage of the population can thrive on just four to six hours, a phenomenon known as “short sleep.”

After President Donald Trump’s annual physical exam, his doctor told reporters Tuesday that the president only sleeps four to five hours a night.

“I think he’s just one of those people who just don’t need much sleep,” said Dr. Ronnie Jackson.

It’s something Trump has discussed before — during the campaign Trump said, “You know, I’m not a big sleeper want to find out what’s going on.”

Trump isn’t the only one who sleeps below average. Executives like PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi and even former President Barack Obama rarely, if ever, get a good night’s sleep.

For many of us, not getting enough sleep can have unpleasant consequences, such as headaches and stomach problems. But others are able to survive on as little as four to six hours of sleep, known as “short naps.”

Short sleepers, a group the Wall Street Journal once dubbed the “sleepless elite,” need only a brief amount of sleep each night instead of the average seven to eight hours. Scientists estimate that these individuals make up only about 1% of the population.

It is not known whether Trump falls into this group. But there are a few traits that most short sleepers identified so far seem to have:

  • You tend to be more upbeat and upbeat than most people.
  • You tend to get up early, even on vacation or weekends.
  • You tend to have one family member who is also a short sleeper. Since napping is genetic, the behavior associated with it often runs in the family.
  • They tend to be physically active.
  • If they sleep longer than necessary, they often feel light-headed.
  • They say they tend to avoid caffeine or don’t need it to feel energized.

This sleep pattern is still a relatively new area of ​​, so much is unknown about short sleepers and their genetics. Having some of these traits doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a short sleeper, nor does lacking some of these traits mean you’re not.

The Short Sleep Clinic

Why Trump Only Needs A Few Hours Of Sleep Every Night


Courtesy of Abby Ross

While it has no apparent negative health effects, short sleep is considered a sleep disorder.

Although many people think they can get by on just four hours of sleep, most of them probably aren’t true short sleepers – they’re just chronically sleep deprived.

Ying-Hui Fu, a biologist and human genetics professor at the University of California, San Francisco, began studying short sleepers in 1996 when a woman came to the lab and asked her to investigate why her whole family woke up so early every day. Fu examined characteristics related to this family and others who came to the clinic. She soon learned that there are three types of people: early risers, night owls, and those who fall somewhere in between. Perhaps most importantly, she also learned that there are specific traits associated with all three types.

This work began with more than 20 years of studying this sleep behavior to learn more about how people rest and the role genetics play in this behavior.

“We know next to nothing about how sleep is regulated,” Fu told Business Insider in 2015.

Right now, most of the money for sleep goes to sleep disorder treatments that deprive patients of sleep, which of course focus on helping people sleep more, not less.

But Fu believes this undermines the need for more on short sleepers. “Except for water and air, nothing is more important” than sleep, she said.

Abby Ross: mother, MD, marathon runner, “wake-up person”

When Abby Ross walked into Fu’s lab, she learned that she was one of the rare short sleepers.

Ross never needed a full night’s sleep, and for years she didn’t know why she woke up feeling alert and ready for the day, even after only four hours of sleep.

Ross decided to contribute to research in Fu’s lab, donating blood and answering questions from psychologists and doctors from around the world. But she doesn’t know if she has the genes that have since been linked to short sleep, as she has agreed that any information the researchers have gathered about her genes will not be shared with her.

The lab’s reasoning for how they described it to Ross was that if someone who came in with naps symptoms didn’t have one of the already identified naps genes, they could have another gene that’s been linked to the disorder, according to Fu’s lab yet to identify.

But Ross said the information she’s gotten about herself so far is enough.

“I’ve learned that what I have is really a gift,” she told Business Insider in 2015.

For as long as she can remember, Ross said, she’s had short sleepers. When she was little, she would get up early to get bagels and coffee with her parents. This early of napping habits is consistent with other napping habits typically developing this habit sometime in childhood or young adulthood.

Ross earned her bachelor’s degree in three years by taking more classes than the average course load, which came naturally to her. For her, a “night’s sleep” was not a dreaded way to cram; It was just a normal night. Plus, Ross says, she always found it easy to fall asleep. So if her body needed an hour or two, she would nap and then pick up right where she left off.

Ross attended graduate school to study psychology and started a family.

“If I got up to feed the baby,” she recalled, “I could stay up and study psychology.”

She said she did it all by developing respect for her body clock.

“It gave me permission to accept that if my husband goes to bed at 10:30, I’ll stay up,” she said. “It just is.”

IMG_5682 - Why Trump Only Needs A Few Hours Of Sleep Every Night

Ross and her father, Stan Kolber, who is also a short sleeper.

Courtesy of Abby Ross

In true sleeper form, Ross has led an incredibly active life. Ten years ago she ran 37 marathons in as many months. In one of those months, she ran three marathons. Since then, she’s often logged about five miles of walking and other activities each day on her Fitbit.

Ross puts her extra hours to good use, using them to do everything from cataloging family photos to meeting up with her loved ones. Ross’ father, 92, also has a short sleeper. For years, the two have been emailing each other around 5 a.m. every morning to get their day started.

For the most part, Ross has embraced her brief sleep gift except for the name.

“I find the name really weird,” she said, since it sounds like people refer to her height.

Ross prefers to be called a “wake-up person” rather than a sleeper.

Recent Developments

Being a short sleeper is largely genetic.

So far, Fu has identified several genes linked to the disorder. One such gene is DEC2, which is known to affect our circadian rhythm, the biological process influenced by light and temperature that determines when we sleep and when we wake up. The other genes have yet to be published.

One of the main reasons Fu’s lab hasn’t been able to release much information about short sleepers so quickly is that it takes a long time — 10 years, she said — to publish the kind of sleep-related paper she’s planning. For these studies, researchers need to find and recruit short sleepers, which are not easy to come by with only 1% of the population.

Not a lot of money is being put into sleep studies, which Fu says is the wrong approach, as understanding sleep habits could help people avoid illnesses made worse by sleep deprivation.

“Rather than putting out the fire, we try to avoid fire,” she said.

No official long-term health effects have been linked to short sleep, although Fu said it’s a concern her lab is investigating. Most of the people who come to Fu’s lab are in their 40s to 70s and in good health. Most stay active into old age, and Fu said she even had a volunteer in her lab who was 90, so she suspects longevity might also be related to a short sleep.

Ideally, Fu hopes to one day crack the code on how to become a short sleeper without being born with it. Then maybe there will be more research focus to develop a gene therapy that can help people get used to being short sleepers.

“I have a feeling that someday in the far future we can all sleep efficiently and be healthy and smart,” she said. “It interests me.”

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