I recently listened to a podcast talking about how science is trying to phase out sleep. So far, science has been pretty unsuccessful. The hosts of the podcast (and I imagine lots of you) think that trying to lessen the amount of sleep required is idiotic. However, sleep itself hasn't been shown to have a lot of benefits, other than the fact that we function terribly without it. As a popular broadcast meteorologist in Alabama says, "Sleep is for sissies".
There are a very small amount of people (<1%) who naturally need less sleep than the rest of us to be fully restored and energized. What if science could use whatever this gene is and implement it in the rest of us? Then there's people like me who need a freaking 10 hours of sleep to be restored. What if I could get by perfectly well with just five hours of sleep per night? How much more productive could I be?
I don't want to get into the science in this post, but rather explain what I see as potentially huge benefits to society getting by with less sleep. I mainly want to point out that a society who needs less sleep would much more productive. I would even venture to say that needing less sleep could solve most of society's problems, at least economic problems. Not only could a 24/7 society result (of which I explained the benefits in a previous blog post), but each person could be infinitely more productive, perhaps working 60 or 80 hours a week instead of 40 hours and be paid the same amount, but still have the same amount of free time. Now I know you all are laughing at this point and thinking how ridiculous and undesirable this sounds. But look at it this way: don't you often feel like when you wake up in the morning, you just went to bed? If we can get these restorative effects through some other means than sleep, what does it matter the method of this restoration? Lessening or eliminating the amount of "traditional" sleep needed would be like discovering the fountain of youth. Seriously.
I know this all sounds crazy, and I have doubts that science could actually lessen the sleep needed with there not being serious side effects. And there's the concept of dreams: do dreams make our brain "grow" more than being awake? Are people who have many dreams smarter than those who don't? Can this magic drug make you dream a lot during your two hours of sleep? I am merely trying to get you thinking about how incredibly powerful a discovery it would be to phase out sleep, and that there are certainly benefits. I predict this will become a real hot button and controversial issue 10 or 20 years down the line.