From an article in the Times on napping in children:
Dr. Jenni was one of the authors of a large study, published in 2003 in the journal Pediatrics, which measured sleep duration across childhood. He and his colleagues documented the decrease in daytime napping and the consolidation of nighttime sleep as a group of Swiss children grew up. They also found that individual children’s sleep needs and sleep patterns tended to be consistent through age 10. In other words, children who slept less than their peers as infants grew into older children who seemed to need less sleep.
This may explain a lot.
It is well known amongst my friends and family that I do not require much sleep. I normally sleep for about five hours every night, but I can easily sleep less than that for a day or two without any noticeable repercussions.
My mother said that as a child, it seemed as if I never slept. I slept fitfully as an infant, abandoned naps at an early age, and became so difficult in terms of keeping me in bed at night that in lieu of a bedtime, I was simply sent upstairs with the expectation that I could do whatever I wanted as long as I did not come downstairs again.
By the age of 5, I was deciding upon my own bedtime.
I remember sleeping over a friend’s house for the first time in second grade and being put to bed by his mother at bedtime. After she shut out the lights and closed the bedroom door, I rolled over in my sleeping bag and asked, “Are we being punished for something?”
The thought of being required to go to sleep was ludicrous to me.
So perhaps there is something to the finding that children who sleep less than their peers as infants grow into older children who seem to need less sleep.
Perhaps this pattern thankfully extends into adulthood as well.
If I had to sleep 8 hours a night, I don’t know how I’d ever get anything done.