Can you Function on Four Hours of Sleep? A Mutation in NSPR1 Can Explain this Phenomenon

Have you heard your colleague or coworker mention that they work on 4 hours of sleep every day? Yet, you wonder why they don’t mirror a zombie from a nonfiction novela. If you’re like everybody else, you can’t function until you get a taste of our hot cup of coffee that was imported from the mountains of Columbia or sip on the steamy expresso spiked and concentrated with caffeine rich shots meant to summon an awakening. As the caffeine diffuses and circulates our system, we think to ourselves how these people even remember what is said in our weekly meetings. 

Well, a third “short sleep” gene can be the reason why some carry this superpower of sleeping on 4 hours. The kicker is that the gene can help prevent memory loss. As the caffeine continues to circulate and activate receptors, you realize why your weekly meetings that map out intricate details of an experiment are remembered by 4 hours. 

That biology class suddenly makes sense, as you remember that chapter on genetics you skimmed over. 

 “Short Sleep” Gene: 

A mutant neuropeptide S receptor reduces sleep duration without jeopardizing memory. An important discovery that led to the finding of the SHORT sleep gene. 

It used to be reasonable to assume that a lack of sleep would affect the memory of a person. The discovery of the SHORT gene has brought interests to scientists looking for ways to apply this SHORT gene to treat disorders and diseases affecting an individual’s memory. 


Another new gene was found and was identified who needed just 4-5 hours of sleep every day. A superpower can be kryptonite for some. Individuals suffering from sleep deprivation can lead to many consequences, like obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, depression, heart diseases, etc. Yet, those that carry the SHORT gene do not experience any of those consequences. 

Researchers sequenced the carrier of the genes and discovered a mutation in NPSR1. A mutation encoding a signaling protein that rests on a neuron. A protein that regulates the sleep cycle of an individual. 


It is a signaling pathway in the brain. It functions to promote wakefulness. It modifies other proteins found downstream. The mutant version was found to be more effective than the normal wild type gene. Easier and more accessible to trigger the mutant version than the non-mutant version. 

Memory test: 

It was observed in mice that sleep deprivation affects their memory. Experiments were performed on these mice, where they were shocked by the researchers to see if they remember more than normal non-mutated mice. A comparison was made and found that mice with NSPR1 mutation remember and function more favorably. 

Scientists are now working to see how this gene can be used to treat patients suffering from insomnia. 

 Do you function on four hours of sleep?