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I have a character in a fictional world where people develop special powers, very similar to x-men. I had the character doing so much while in college that it started to get questionable how he had time fit all the activities in. I decided that a side effect of his ability (to absorb energy of other 'mutant' powers, nullifying them) is that he can use the power he absorbs from others to accelerate his natural healing in such a way that he needs less sleep at night. Thus giving him a few hours extra each day to spend on all his extra-curricular activities.

I have two questions. First, how best to make this seem plausible and realistic. Obviously were in a world where people can throw fire from their hands and read mind, so realistic is already a questionable concept, but still what can I do to best hand-wave the extra hours a night. He will still need REM sleep, and will suffer side effects if he does not get REM sleep, he only cuts back on non-REM sleep.

second, are there any implications of this that I may miss? All I want is to give him a few hours during the day to run around interacting with people by having all his homework and pesky learning to be done while others are asleep. Would there be more complex physical or psychological impacts to needing less sleep?

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There are three kinds of sleep: light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. Important physiological functions happen in all three – there is no wasted junk sleep in a healthy night’s sleep. Most middle-aged and older adults would probably prefer to get more deep sleep and less light sleep. A common shift in sleep architecture as we age is a loss of deep sleep and its replacement with light sleep. Source: Why we need to sleep

The source goes on to explain that children and young adults need more deep sleep because it is the period when growth hormones are released and when the body grows and renews itself.

Then it says there are many hypotheses on why humans require sleep:

  • The brain is able to reorder without the inputs it gets while awake. The brain has a chance to exercise important neuronal connections that might otherwise deteriorate due to lack of activity.
  • Sleep gives the brain an opportunity to reorganize data to help find a solution to problem, process newly learned information and organize and archive memories.
  • Sleep is a time for serious rest. Sleep lowers a person’s metabolic rate and energy consumption. The allostatic load on the body takes a toll and sleep is a respite.
  • The cardiovascular system also gets a break during sleep. Researchers have found that people with normal or high blood pressure experience a 20 to 30% reduction in blood pressure and 10 to 20% reduction in heart rate.
  • During sleep, the body has a chance to replace chemicals and repair muscles, other tissues and aging or dead cells. Growth hormones are released during deep sleep.

In effect, you could say that your character's biological system doesn't generate as many negative chemicals when it is "absorbing energy", and so it reduces the time needed for sleep because his body doesn't need as much time to restore itself - but he would still need deep sleep to grow and some other sleep to restore the little that was still produced.

Explain it much more than that and you'll have to explain what is actually shooting out of the fire-user's hands, how he ignites it, and where all that stuff comes from.

The major implication is that instead of spending 8 hours (or however long you usually sleep) lying almost motionless, he is active and moving. That means he's going to need to eat more to provide the energy for those activities.

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perhaps his 'weakness' is that if he absorbs too much energy then he will require no sleep and therefore, not feel tired, and therefore not get any REM sleep. So, although physically healthy, his mind is sleep deprived. Who knows where that may take him.

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Plausability

There are other methods of sleep, see polyphasic sleep schedules, where you can sleep for multiple periods of time instead of once or twice a day and still get the needed REM cycle. Here is a site with some various polyphasic sleep cycles. The side effects seem minimal, but most concur that a full 8 hours of rest is better than short periods of rest.

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Maybe this will help

'Thatcher Gene' Unlocks Secrets of Needing Less Sleep

New US study reveals special gene that may have allowed Margaret Thatcher to survive on just four hours of sleep

By Aaron Akinyemi August 2, 2014 10:59 BST

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/thatcher-gene-unlocks-secrets-needing-less-sleep-1459433

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Not sleeping could actually be the drawback of his power: rather than granting him the ability to not sleep, it takes so much time being awake to safely eliminate all the absorbed power, and as a result the power is used carefully, since it means sleep deprivation for the character.

Additionally, there are real life examples of isolated incidents where after brain accidents, people do not require sleep. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thái_Ngọc is about a man who claims to have gone without sleep for 41 years.

Another example, that I am unfortunately lacking a link to, is someone who suffered a head injury and as a result couldn't sleep, which led to headaches and massive personality changes over time.

Alternately, the healing he experiences could manifest not as physical rest but as some form of regenerative and regulatory effect on his internal system and brain, allowing him to function without the sleep by supercharging any systems that needed rest, fully replacing any components they needed.

Edit: did not realize that Thai Ngoc's story had already been posted

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With less or no sleep he studies every trait or subject there is to know.He is young but has the knowledge of many life times.He absorbs energy from the outside world but also absorbs thoughts which can be negative or used positively.He learns how to harness his energy to heal and rejuvenate his age.With his endless hours of study he masters new abilities, slowly becoming God like to help humanity.

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