Margaret Thatcher famously said that she only needed four hours of sleep a night and German scientists believe they have found the reason behind it.
Karla Allebrandt and her team from the Ludwig Maxmilians University of Munich have found a gene called ABCC9, which can decrease the amount of time we sleep.
People who had two copies of one variant of the gene slept for shorter periods than those who had two copies of another version
The study interviewed 4,000 people from seven EU countries about their sleep habits.
The researchers then analysed their answers, as well as the volunteer’s genes.
“Apparently the relationships of sleep duration with other conditions such as heart disease and diabetes can be in part explained by an underlying common molecular mechanism,” Ms Allebrandt told reporters.
“The ABCC9 gene is evolutionarily ancient, as a similar gene is present in fruitflies. Fruitflies also exhibit sleep-like behaviour.
“When we blocked the function of the ABCC9 homolog in the fly nervous system, the duration of nocturnal sleep was shortened,” she added.