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The Real Life Superpower Every Parent Dreams Of

By Sierra Black |

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

OK, now that you’ve indulged your dreams of flying, turning invisible or having your own personal Tardis, check out this seemingly magic power: short sleep.

Short sleep is the ability to genuinely thrive on 4-6 hours a night of sleep. Short sleepers don’t just get by on less than seven hours a night like every parent I know; they genuinely don’t need any more sleep.

It’s a real-life superpower that one to three percent of the population is blessed with, giving them an extra couple of hours every day to do what they want with. Short sleepers go to bed after midnight and wake up with the early birds, fresh as daisies and ready to start the day all over again.

According to the Wall Street Journal, short sleepers have a collection of interesting traits in common. They tend to be high achievers, extroverts and extremely energetic. They’re also thinner than average, have a high pain tolerance and a suprisingly upbeat base mood.

I’m not making this up: some people are just naturally thin, happy, passionate and resilient on half the sleep normal humans need just to function.

Sadly, this isn’t a trait you can train yourself to. Short sleepers are born, not made. It appears to have something to do with genetics, though scientists are still figuring out exactly how the mechanism works.

That’s a bummer. If you could bottle this mojo, every mom I know would be in line for it. Imagine being able to sleep four hours a night and wake up feeling perky, day after day! What would you do with all that extra time? I’d probably spend mine writing and working out. That’s what I tend to short myself on sleep for these days.

But when I do sleep less than seven hours, I feel sleep deprived. Most people do. The Wall Street Journal cautions against declaring yourself a short sleeper. Thriving on so little sleep is actually quite rare. Most people who believe they don’t need sleep really do, and just walk around constantly sleep deprived. You may think you’re doing alright, but you’re at higher risk for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and other health issues. One third of American adults are chronically sleep deprived. Out of every hundred who believe they don’t need sleep, only a handful are really OK without it.

If you’re lucky enough to be a natural short sleeper, I envy you. The rest of us will just have to dream about your superpower while we’re sleeping seven to nine hours a night.

Photo: Ed Yourdon

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About Sierra Black


Sierra Black

Sierra Black lives, writes and raises her kids in the Boston area. She loves irreverence, hates housework and wants to be a writer and mom when she grows up. Read bio and latest posts → Read Sierra's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “The Real Life Superpower Every Parent Dreams Of

  1. Maggie says:

    This is SO much the superpower I wanted as a working single mom, back in the 70s. And there’s something I do now that I wish I’d known about then.

    Yoga has a kind of deep relaxation called Yoga Nidra. In the style I’m most familiar with, it begins with lying quietly. One by one you tense and release a group of muscles — everything in the right foot and leg, then the left, then one arm, then the other, then the belly, the chest, the head and neck. “Tighten every muscle in that ___ just as tight as you can, tighter, tighter, keep holding your breath, tighter, and then release it all ‘whoosh’ through the open mouth.”

    Next, imagine a wave of beautiful, blissful, delicious relaxation arriving at the feet, so that the balls of the feet are relaxed, the toes are relaxed, the arches are relaxed, the insteps are relaxed, the heels are relaxed, and every part of the feet is blissfully, deliciously, delightfully relaxed. …and so on through the legs, the torso, the arms and hands, the head and neck.

    You might scan this body now, and if there’s any part that would like more relaxation than it has, just invite that part to accept that relaxation now.

    This body doesn’t need your attention just now; the floor or bed will hold it. Similarly this breath and these thoughts don’t need your attention just now. They can just flow in and flow out, whether you attend to them or not.

    Allow your attention to go deep into the awareness of who you really are, whatever that is for you.

    … most of us will disappear for five or fifteen minutes, sometimes in deep meditation, sometimes sleeping. When the timer rings, we arise refreshed.

    Even my young grandchildren can be taught to do this, and to lie nearly still for three or more minutes while mommy or grandma rests.

    It doesn’t make up for all of the lost sleep, but it sure does help.

  2. Sierra Black says:

    @Maggie: wow! what an awesome meditation. Thanks so much for sharing it. I will definitely try that next time I’m feeling run down after sleeping too little.

  3. Ian Hammer says:

    Sierra, Good article. Unfortunately the WSJ was a little irresponsible in not also printing the comments form one of the lead scientists that said only 5 in a 100 of those who think they can survive off 5 or fewer hours sleep actually can. All the best, Ian ( ).

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