Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
© Dr. Neil Stanley 2013-2024
Was Margaret Thatcher a short sleeper? Every couple of years some researchers have discover genes that are involved in determining the amount of sleep that you as an individual need, this is for some reason often called the ‘Thatcher gene’ e.g. in 2014 here but a ‘Thatcher gene’ was also discovered in Germany in 2011 here. Before that another gene involved in determining sleep need (the Per3 gene) was discovered in 2007 here (though thankfully not on this occasion called the ‘Thatcher gene’) and before that the first ‘Thatcher gene’ was reported in 2005 here. It all gets a bit confusing doesn’t it, how can all of these different genes be THE gene that determines sleep need? Or is the press just being lazy? It should hardly be a surprise that there is a gene (or genes! ) that determine sleep need, in the same way that you would not be that surprised if I claimed that there was a gene (or genes) responsible for determining height. We all have a genetically determined, individual, sleep need and it is important for each of us to get the sleep we need each and every night. Simply the amount of sleep you need is that which allows you to feel awake and to function at a high level the next day. If you are sleepy during the day you are not getting enough sleep. It is interesting how the press always focus on the idea of getting less sleep or shorter sleep as though this was somehow a good thing to do, except the never seem to advocate eating less healthily or doing less exercise. An interesting observation on the latest ‘Thatcher gene’ was given by Charles Moore, Thatcher’s official biographer, who was interviewed in the Telegraph article above who said it was impossible to know if the former prime minister had a special gene that made her less susceptible to tiredness, but said much of her ability stemmed from a drive to prove herself. “I do not know whether or not she had a gene of this sort........ I think she found it hard: she wanted to show she didn't need much sleep. In fact, she needed more than she said.” So Thatcher probably never had ‘Thatcher gene’ and was probably not therefore a short sleeper.