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Only need four hours of sleep? You could have a genetic mutation Add to ...

Lucky short sleepers

"For most of us, setting the clock forward in the spring is a sad occasion, a sign that we're losing an hour of sleep," CNN.com says. "… But for some genetically blessed people, a loss of one hour of sleep is not a problem. In fact, sleeping fewer than the recommended seven or eight hours is the norm. They naturally feel refreshed and ready to go - at 4 a.m. These 'short sleepers' have a mutation on a gene known as hDEC2 that regulates their sleep-wake cycle. This mutation allows them to function on less sleep, researchers say. … Certainly, a natural short sleeper has competitive advantages, but most people probably don't have the genetic mutation, said Ying-Hui Fu, professor of neurology at University of California, San Francisco. … Many with this mutation hold down two jobs, have successful careers and enjoy diverse interests. 'Every day, they have two to three more hours to do things,' Fu said. 'They're very active.' "

Those pesky alpha waves

"Look at the clock. It's 3 a.m. Why are you suddenly awake? You feel tired enough, your bed is cozy. You're not even all that anxious. … A new study points to the state of a particular brain wave that predicts how susceptible we are at any one moment to interruptions to our precious sleep. It's called the 'alpha wave,' and it's a signal the brain typically emits when it is awake but relaxed," The Daily Beast says. The findings from Massachusetts General Hospital's sleep laboratory could lead to a sea change in the way sleep disorders are treated. "Currently, prescription sleep medications like Ambien and Lunesta keep the brain steadily sedated throughout the night. But the new research … suggests that the brain only needs help staying asleep at certain times, and developing methods that deliver sleep assistance only during those times could be a valuable advance."

Is garbage on your menu?

"Southern California researchers have found evidence of ingestion of plastic among small fish in the northern Pacific Ocean," the Los Angeles Times reports, "in a study that they say shows the troubling effect floating litter is having on marine life in the far reaches of the world's oceans. About 35 per cent of the fish collected on a 2008 research expedition off the West Coast had plastic in their stomachs, according to a study. … The fish ingested two pieces of plastic on average, but scientists who dissected hundreds of plankton-eating lanternfish found as many as 83 plastic fragments in a single fish. The study raises the concern that garbage, as it works its way through the food chain, could be ingested by humans."

Beer for Lent

"An Iowa man has vowed to subsist on nothing but beer and water for the 46 days from Ash Wednesday until Easter on April 24," the Chicago Tribune reports. "J. Wilson is a home brewer, beer blogger and editor of the weekly Adams County Free Press newspaper. The married father of two, who describes himself as a nondenominational Christian, says he became fascinated with the 300-year-old tale of doppelbock beer known as 'liquid bread,' brewed by German monks who were not allowed to eat food during Lent. … He's living on four 12-ounce Illuminator Doppelbocks a day, brewed for him by the Rock Bottom Brewery in Des Moines. Each beer contains just under 300 calories and is roughly 6.7 per cent alcohol. And while it might appear he's simply given up sobriety for Lent, Wilson says he plans to consult with a doctor during the fast and does not intend to be drunk at any point."

Can you drive while stoned?

"A bill cracking down on people who drive while high on marijuana cleared its first hurdle at the [Colorado]state Capitol on Thursday," The Denver Post reports. "The bill would set a limit of THC in blood - 5 nanograms per millilitre - above which a person would be considered too stoned to drive legally. … Cynthia Burbach, a state health department toxicologist, assured lawmakers that the 5-nanogram limit is supported by scientific literature as causing impairment. That, however, touched off a fierce debate over what the literature actually says. … Pro-marijuana activists pointed to the scientific debate as a reason to vote down the bill. 'Table the bill until there is more science,' said Scott Greene, the head of Mile High NORML. Adding weight to the criticisms were the statements of medical marijuana patients who worried that their frequent use of marijuana - and the tolerance they've built up - might lead them to test above 5 nanograms even if they aren't stoned."

Thought du jour

"What happens to the guy who smokes pot all the time? I don't know. But I do know something is being mortgaged; something is being drawn out of the future."

- Norman Mailer (1923-2007), U.S. writer

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