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Here's the real reason the dating scene is so terrible for women right now


lulu dating app

There's been a lot of talk lately about how dating apps like Tinder are ruining romance.

A recent Vanity Fair story claims these apps are responsible for a growing hookup culture, where anonymous sex has replaced traditional romance, because they give straight young men the impression that there's a surplus of available women.

But Tinder and its ilk (apps like OkCupid and Hinge) aren't entirely to blame, argues freelance journalist and former Fortune reporter Jon Birger in The Washington Post.

The Vanity Fair article quotes a psychologist who says that apps like Tinder contribute to "a perceived surplus of women" among straight men, which promotes more hookups and fewer traditional relationships.

However, "This surplus of women is not just 'perceived' but very, very real," Birger writes.

In his book "DATE-ONOMICS: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game," Birger argues that the college and post-college hookup scene is a result of the gender gap in college enrollment.

About 34% more women than men graduated from American colleges in 2012, and the US Department of Education predicts this number will reach 47% by 2023. Among college-educated adults in the US aged 22 to 29, there are about 5.5 million women and 4.1 million men, according to the Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

"In other words, the dating pool for straight, millennial, college graduates has four women for every three men," Birger says.

Some research suggests that the gender ratio has a big influence on dating and marriage — women on campuses with more women and fewer men say they go on fewer dates but have more sex, for example. A 2010 study of 986 unmarried, straight college women surveyed in 2001 found that women on campuses with more female than male students said they went on fewer conventional dates, were less likely to say they have had a college boyfriend, and were more likely to say they were sexually active than women from male-dominated campuses were.

The findings build on work by social psychologist Marcia Guttentag, whose book, "Too Many Women? The Sex Ratio Question," describes how the balance of men and women has had a profound effect on society, from sexual norms to economic power.

When there's an excess of marriage-eligible men, research suggests, the dating culture — in which men are traditionally the active ones seeking partners, rather than the other way around — involves more romance, because men must compete for the attention of fewer women. But when the ratio is skewed toward women, as with the college grads in this study, romantic interaction becomes more about sex, because men are in high demand and don't feel pressured to settle down.

Birger says this can lead to women being more sexually objectified, while men "play the field."

A possible solution?

Another factor that makes dating difficult is that college-educated women today are less likely than ever before to marry men with less education than them, research suggests. (In the past, difference in education level was a less important factor in marriage.)

As Berger puts it, "New York City women looking for a match would be better off, statistically at least, at a fireman's bar in Staten Island than a wine bar on the Upper East Side." In other words, if women with a college education were more open to dating men without one, it would improve their odds of finding a date.

Of course, the same statistics that Berger cites regarding the uneven ratio of educated men to women in the dating world suggest that this is likely not going to happen anytime soon.

There's another reason working against the dating odds of straight, urban women: In LGBT-friendly cities like New York, Washington, and Miami, a considerable fraction of the men are gay. Birger estimates that in Manhattan's straight, college-grad, under-30 dating pool, there are roughly three women for every two men.

Birger says the picture gets worse with age, because as people get older and get married, the ratio of available women to men gets even more skewed. For example, if you start out with a pool of 140 women and 100 men (all of whom are straight and monogamous), and half the women get married, the ratio of single women to single men rises from 1.4:1 to more than 2:1.

To solve that problem, Birger suggests that women seeking love in Manhattan leave New York, "which is one of the worst dating markets in the country for educated young women." If you are one of these women, his advice is, "Go West, Young Woman."

The odds are slightly better in the Western states of California and Colorado, which each have 20% more college-educated women aged 22 to 29 than men. By comparison, Illinois and North Carolina have 36% and 41% more such women, respectively.

In Silicon Valley, which is notoriously male-dominated, women have much better chances of snagging a man. Santa Clara County, for example, is the only populated area in the country where there are more male college graduates than female ones.

RELATED: Science-backed ways to hack your Tinder profile and get the most matches possible

SEE ALSO: Biological anthropologist: Tinder works because it mimics millennia-old human behavior

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NOW WATCH: Have you heard of 'the Tinder for elites'?

This 1-minute animation will change your perspective on life in the universe


If extraterrestrial life is anything like what we see on Earth, then chances are it's living on Earth-like planets thousands, or even millions, of light years from our solar system.

Today, astronomers have detected over 1,700 extra-solar planets, or exoplanets, with NASA's Kepler Space Telescope. While it's hard to visualize so many planets, a second-year astronomy graduate student at the University of Washington, named Ethan Kruse, has found a way that is both mesmerizing and oddly humbling.

Check out his animation below, where every circle you see is a planet. (Our solar system is on the far right.)

What you're seeing here is our solar system among every exoplanet that the Kepler telescope has identified since NASA launched it into space in 2009. In order to make each planet visible, the sizes are not to scale.

In total, the animation reveals a jaw-dropping 1,705 exoplanets in 685 planetary systems — just like our solar system, many other star systems contain more than one planet.

The size of each planet's orbit is to scale, so if you compare the speed of most exoplanets to the planets in our solar system, you can see that many are moving much faster, which means they're significantly closer to their parent star.

Moreover, on the left, Kruse provides a color gauge that corresponds to the different temperatures of each planet, measured in Kelvin. (The locations of exoplanets in the animation don't necessarily correlate with their true location within the Milky Way galaxy.)

Many exoplanets observed to date are larger than Earth and scorching hot. Experts call these "hot Jupiters," (illustrated below) which can have surface temperatures that reach 1800 degrees Fahrenheit.

Screen Shot 2015 12 06 at 2.25.44 PM

While that's far too hot for any life, that we know of, to survive, there are some exoplanets similar in size and temperature to Earth. And it's these distant celestial orbs that give some astrobiologists hope.

Some scientists even think that by studying the atmospheres of these Earth-like exoplanets, we could discover the first signs of extraterrestrial life.

We first learned about Kruse's incredible animation on the wildly popular website: Astronomy Picture of the Day.

You can make your own animation using the source code that Kruse provides here. You can also check out a similar animation that Kruse made in 2013 on YouTube or below:

SEE ALSO: Astronomers just saw a black hole blow something incredible into space with tremendous force

LEARN MORE: Mind-blowing facts about this alien-looking creature that's one of the hardest to study in the wild

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NOW WATCH: This 3-minute animation will change your perception of time

This artist makes paintings with firecracker explosions


Drew Lausman from Lakeland, Florida, claims to have created a new genre of art called "Explosionism." 

The process includes dipping Dowel rods in paint, taping on a firecracker, and lighting it over a spray paint- covered canvas. The results are paintings that look like stunning landscapes and far away galaxies.

"Part of my inspiration came from actually having little materials at the time," Lausman told INSIDER, explaining that when his brother passed away in 2009, he left behind a ton of firecrackers, leading Lausman to use those as a way to create art.

However, Lausman warns that Explosionism is not a safe way of producing art.

"I will literally get burned pretty much every single time that I do a painting," Lausman said. "I have three burns on my hand currently."

His paintings are available on his Etsy page, "Explosionism," and prices range from $60 to $350.

Story and editing by Alana Yzola, filming by Tess Danielson


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This map shows all of the 'Star Wars' filming locations you can actually visit


The adventures you see in "Star Wars" may happen in a galaxy far, far away, but it turns out that it's not all that difficult to visit the sites where the movies were filmed. 

With "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" set to premiere this week, online travel site Cyplon Holidays has created an infographic showing all of the movies' real-life filming locations. To put the data together, they reviewed film locations listed on the Star Wars website and in The Worldwide Guide To Movie Locations.

The results span the globe, from canyons and deserts in the US to mountains and palaces in Europe. 

To embark on your own "Star Wars" adventure, check out the full infographic below.

star wars filming locations

SEE ALSO: A 'Star Wars'-themed jet is flying across the world — here's what it looks like inside

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NOW WATCH: George Lucas explains one of the most controversial scenes in 'Star Wars' history

We found New York City's most delicious doughnut


New York City's Dough serves some of the city's best doughnuts.

Unlike most bakeries, Dough does not prepare a large batch of doughnuts in the morning to be sold throughout the day. Instead, the doughnuts are made in small batches all day long, meaning that each doughnut served is super fresh.

We went behind the scenes to see how these delicious treats are made.

First, the dough is made and mixed with lots of butter. Then, each doughnut is shaped and fried by hand. However, the real magic happens when the doughnuts are glazed, as Dough makes an array of unique and gourmet flavors, like passion fruit and hibiscus.

The result is a giant, mouthwatering doughnut that's nothing like you've ever tasted before.

Story by Sarah Schmalbruch and editing by Chelsea Pineda

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SEE ALSO: We went on a hunt for NYC's best brownie — here's what we found

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10 grooming gifts the modern gentleman will actually use


caffeinated shaving cream

When buying smaller gifts, it may be tempting to just put in as little effort as possible.

But if you're buying for the modern gentleman, don't skimp on the grooming products — get him stuff he's actually going to use.

Sure, it's going to cost a little more than going to the local drug store and buying whatever's on sale, but we're sure he'll thank you for it.

SEE ALSO: 16 gifts that the modern gentleman actually wants this year

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Baxter of California's Daily Protein Shampoo offers several benefits over traditional shampoo.

While it might be a bit pricier than that $2 bottle of Suave, Baxter claims that it removes natural toxins like DHT, which inhibits natural hair growth.


For the bearded man, make sure he's well-supplied with oil.

Beard oil conditions your facial hair, providing a luscious shine without weighing it down or making it feel greasy.

This one, by Beardbrand, smells of crisp, clean tea tree.


Lip balm is a lame gift — unless you give him this one.

Tom Ford's hydrating lip balm for men isn't your typical chap stick.

It's gotten rave reviews from everyone from GQ to online reviewers for its ability to keep lips insanely well-hydrated. 


See the rest of the story at Business Insider

This guy used a frequent-flier trick to take a $10,000 first-class flight for just $130 — here's what it was like


oI4imDSDDb ksQsIGD3EU_6E66jmuSEzZEwVO8kVgOoTravel blogger Sam Huang has made a habit of booking extravagant flights that cost him only a few hundred dollars.

This time, Huang cashed in 67,500 American Airlines miles for a one-way ticket from Chicago to Hong Kong. The first-class ticket on Hong Kong's iconic airline, Cathay Pacific, normally goes for $10,000, but Huang paid just $130 — including a $75 late booking fee. And he took plenty of pictures.

The first-class cabin Huang was in only had six seats, and he was taken aback by the "level of sophistication and elegance at every turn," he wrote on his travel-deals blog, TopMiles. "The service was top notch and you can easily tell they paid attention to the minor details."

Huang used a clever method involving credit-card sign-ups to accumulate American Advantage miles and snag the seat. Business Insider has previously confirmed with airlines that his booking methods are legitimate.

From caviar and Dom Perignon to foot massages, here is what Huang's trip was like in his own words. The most impressive part of the trip might be Cathay Pacific's stunning lounges Huang was able to hang out in when he landed in Hong Kong.

Note: All photos and text are used with permission.

SEE ALSO: This guy used a frequent-flier loophole to take a $60,000 trip in a first-class suite on Emirates

I arrived at the check-in counter with only a little over an hour to spare, having underestimated the time it would take me to get from my hotel to the airport. Upon clearing security, I was surprised when the agent who checked me in earlier was there waiting for me. She noticed I was walking gingerly, immediately helped me with my carry-on, and escorted me to the first-class lounge, which was greatly appreciated! I quickly settled into the rather plain British Airways first-class lounge, which consisted of a bunch of sofas and a few potted plants.

The agent who escorted me in asked me what I wanted to drink. Knowing the amazing food and Dom waiting for me onboard, I decided to just get a bottle of water. Shortly, it was time to board for my 15-hour flight to Hong Kong.

Still noticing my limp, the check-in agent personally took my carry-on and escorted me from the lounge to the plane. There was only one bridge from the gate to the plane, which meant the agent and I waited with everyone else as we boarded the plane.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

20 stunning portraits from the 'Humans of New York' photographer's interviews with Syrian refugees



Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind "Humans of New York," recently traveled to Jordan and Turkey to talk to 12 different Syrian refugee families preparing to embark to the United States. Stanton met them at a highly emotional moment, at the end of an intense screening process that lasted multiple years.

Stanton has told their stories in the classic "HONY" style: kids' comical quips mixed in with more serious anecdotes about what life has been like for these refugee families.

It's grabbing the attention of not only HONY's more than 16 million Facebook fans, but also high-profile followers like President Obama and actor Edward Norton, who has already raised more than $300,000 for one of the refugees featured in the series.

Ahead, see 20 of the most hard-hitting memories and moving moments that Stanton has recorded and shared. 

(Captions written by Humans of New York)

SEE ALSO: 15 unforgettable portraits from the 'Humans of New York' photographer's trip to Pakistan

Istanbul, Turkey

"I want to be a professor that examines the bones of dinosaurs because I like dinosaurs a lot. I also want to have a dinosaur, but I know that’s impossible. I love to go to Google and type: 'Nice dinosaur movies.' But that uses a lot of the phone, so I don't get to do that too much. One day I'm going to open a museum full of dinosaur bones. I'm not sure where I'll find the bones. Probably America and France."

"Look at this invention we made. We've made a lot of inventions. You can make really good things out of stuff you don't need. We made an alien out of a speaker that we found in the trash, and then we made a person out of milk cartons, and we turned our trash can into a dinosaur because I love dinosaurs."

Istanbul, Turkey

"When I was in second grade, our school got attacked by a bomb. It was a barrel full of explosions. We were just opening our books to start the class, and it's hard to describe the sound, but it was like a building coming apart."

"I ran to the other class to find my brother, and he was crying because of the sound. Our bus left, so we didn’t know what to do. But my brother is so smart. He ran to the market and called our grandma."

Istanbul, Turkey

"I was at home when the telephone rang. It was my mother. She told me that there had been a bomb at the boys' school. I immediately tried to call the school, but nobody answered. Then I tried to call the bus driver but he didn't answer either. I imagined the worst. The roads were closed, so I couldn’t get to the school."

"All I could do was pace around the house. Finally the bus driver answered the phone and said that everyone was alive. The bomb had landed on the playground and only destroyed one wall of the school. After several hours the roads were reopened, and they came back home. When I hugged them, it felt like the whole world was in my hands."

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

The best holiday desserts in 22 countries around the world



Americans love to eat candy canes, gingerbread, and sugar cookies during the holidays. 

Elsewhere in the world, however, a typical holiday dessert might look a lot different.

From an 18-layered ring cake in Norway to a boozy rum-filled fruit cake in Jamaica, this is what holiday treats look like in 22 countries around the world.

SEE ALSO: Inside New York City's most festive bar, where they spend more than $60,000 a year getting ready for Christmas

AUSTRALIA: Many Australians opt for a light pavlova — or berry dessert — after dinner, instead of a heavy Christmas pudding or cake. Pavlova is similar to a large meringue that has been topped with fresh cream and berries.

Source: World of Wanderlust

AUSTRIA: Little vanilla crescent cookies called vanillekipferl adorn bakeshop windows and family kitchens throughout the holiday season in Austria. They're similar to a shortbread cookie and are made with vanilla and nuts.

Source: Food52

BELGIUM: Speculaas is a thin, crunchy cookie typically eaten before St. Nicholas' feast in the Netherlands. The cookies are created using intricate wood molds and are similar in taste to gingerbread cookies, except that they are more subtly spiced.

Source: Saveur

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

What not getting enough sleep does to your brain and body


Surrounding ourselves with screens comes with an unexpected side effect: We can't sleep.

And our bodies and minds are suffering.

Whether it's because we're staying up to squeeze in a final episode of "Master of None" or scrolling through Facebook, nearly 40% of us get less than seven hours of sleep a night, according to a recent Gallup poll. And the CDC estimates that another 50-70 million Americans likely have a sleep disorder.

Here are eight horrible things that can happen if you don't get enough sleep:

bi_graphics_what little sleep does to your body

Additional reporting by Lauren F. Friedman.

NEXT UP: 12 healthy habits to get a better night's sleep, according to scientists

SEE ALSO: Here’s the secret to consistently getting a better night’s sleep

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Stop skating by on minimal sleep — these are the scary side effects of running on fumes

The guy who launched a startup while fighting brain cancer is suing his insurance company


Ronnie Castro fight

The day Porch.com cofounder Ronnie Castro's daughter was born was one of the highlights of his life.

But the very next day was one of the worst. That's when he found out he had a rare type of brain cancer with only a 50 percent chance of survival.

And now, he's suing his insurance company for denying him coverage for a type of radiation treatment, proton therapy, which Castro underwent even after the insurance company told him it wouldn't pay for it. 

The treatment put him hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. 

Thanks to a campaign on GiveForward, his friends and family rallied around him to raise $115,000 (and counting) to help him pay those bills. (He's hoping to raise $160,000.)

Castro's story is scary and inspiring.

The scary part: He had gone to the doctor for what he thought was a sinus infection and the doctor made him do a routine MRI. Against all odds, it was a rare form of brain cancer.

The inspiring part: brain cancer didn't stop him from launching a cool startup, Porch.com, with his one of his best friends, Matt Ehrlichman. (Ehrlichman sold his first startup, Thrive, to Active.com for $60 million in 2007 at age 28.)

Porch.com lets you see pictures of cool renovation projects in your neighborhood and connects you to the remodeling pros that did those projects. It was founded in 2013 and came out of stealth shortly after Castro's diagnosis that same year.

It has done well since, growing to 400 employees, raising just under $100 million in venture funding, and showcasing the work of 3.2 million professionals over 132 million projects.

At the time of Castro's diagnosis, he had LifeWise Health Plan of Washington insurance. The insurance company said that the proton therapy was experimental/investigational and therefore not covered by his plan.

Ronnie Castro FamilyCastro and his lawyers believe they've got a case against that decision, according to the legal complaint they shared with Business Insider.

Whether they'll win is for the courts to decide. But he's fighting the insurance company hoping he'll help other brain cancer patients get insurance coverage for their treatment, his representative tells us.

When he was first diagnosed with cancer, he wrote a blog post about it and included a picture of his scar with the mantra, "If its beatable, I'll beat it." 

Looks like he's taking that same attitude with the insurance company.

We've reached out to LifeWise for comment and will update when we hear back.

SEE ALSO: How Ronnie Castro Launched His Startup, Porch.com, While Fighting Brain Cancer

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: A 56-year-old man filmed a conversation with his 18-year-old self, and it's going viral

China's abandoned Wonderland park will send chills down your spine


"Wonderland" is an abandoned amusement park 20 miles outside of Beijing.

At 120 acres, it was designed to be the largest park of its kind in Asia — until financial issues stopped its construction in 1998. Construction resumed in 2008, only to fail again. 

Now, the park sits abandoned, except for local farmers, who use the park's land to grow crops, and "parking attendants" who tend to curious onlookers. 

The site features several half-finished structures inside its medieval-themed walls — most notably a grotesque, skeletal version of Cinderella's castle.

But beyond farmers and the occasional tourist, there is only an ominous silence at Wonderland.

Special thanks to Menilmonde for their stunning footage. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter

Story and editing by Ben Nigh

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SEE ALSO: You will never want to eat a hot dog again after watching how they're made

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Jim Cramer reveals the secret to surviving on less than 4 hours of sleep

The 20 best fiction books of 2015


girl reading book field

Love getting lost in a good story? Goodreads rounded up the best fiction books of 2015.

To compile the list, Goodreads' editors nominated titles frequently reviewed on the site, which were then voted on by readers.

This year's selections cover everything from immigration to disease to true tests of friendship.

Scroll to see the 20 fiction titles you need to add to your reading list before 2015 is over.

SEE ALSO: The 20 best-selling books of the year

“Go Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee

Twenty years after the conclusion of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” an older Scout Finch returns home to Maycomb, Alabama, where she uncovers shocking truths about her family.

As old memories are dredged up and the South moves through a tense civil-rights movement, Scout begins to question everything she stands for.

Find the book here »

“After You” by Jojo Moyes

The sequel to Moyes’ best-selling “Me Before You,” this novel picks up with protagonist Louisa Clark in the wake of losing Will Traynor, the quadriplegic man she spent six transformative months caring for and falling in love with.

In the midst of her grief, an accident lands Lou back home with her family, and things get even more complicated when an abandoned teenager named Lily shows up on her doorstep.

Find the book here »

“The Royal We” by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

When Bex Porter leaves the US to attend Oxford University, she never expects to live down the hall from Prince Nicholas, the heir to the British throne. Even less expected, Bex falls in love with Nicholas and finds herself entangled in the complicated world of high society.

From attending glamorous events to dealing with the difficult secrets of the famously private royal family, Bex must put everything that defines her on the line for the man she loves.

Find the book here »

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Here are some of the biggest secrets behind New York's iconic Plaza Hotel


New York's legendary Plaza Hotel has a colorful past.

Since opening in 1907, it has hosted some of the world's most famous guests and appeared in more than 50 films. 

In honor of its history, The Plaza recently put together an infographic highlighting everything from its list of notorious guests to the bizarre requests its concierge has seen.

Here are some of the most fascinating moments in The Plaza's history, including that time a guest ordered two dozen live tarantulas for a special dinner. plaza hotel infographic

SEE ALSO: 25 photos that show why New York City's Plaza Hotel is legendary

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NOW WATCH: America's Most Expensive Hotel Room Costs $45,000 A Night — And It's Non-Negotiable

One man is trying to end homelessness in Los Angeles by building tiny houses


Elvis Summers is trying to end homelessness in Los Angeles.

With his charity, Starting Human, he’d like to give everyone a house — even if it's about the size of a parking spot.

Summers first started the project when a homeless woman who goes by the name of Smokie came by his house asking for recyclables. She didn't have a home, so Summers went to Home Depot, bought some supplies, and built her one.

The tiny houses each cost about $1,100 to build. Since Summers helped Smokie, he's raised tens of thousands of dollars to build more of them.

Maybe one day he'll raise enough money to build one for every homeless person in LA.

Story by Jacob Shamsian and editing by Jeremy Dreyfuss


SEE ALSO: This cyclist was paralyzed after being hit by a truck — he just finished the NYC marathon

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People who can survive on 4 hours of sleep a night have these common characteristics


jim cramer

Jim Cramer, host of CNBC's Mad Money and co-founder of TheStreet.com, told Business Insider that he only needs four hours of sleep each night to feel well-rested and alert. 

Cramer said he sleeps between 11:30 p.m. and 3:45 a.m. most weeknights, and rarely needs an alarm to rise. His father, he says, was the same way, only taking a couple of naps but never sleeping a full eight hours. 

Cramer's not the only one: Leaders such as Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, and even President Barack Obama rarely — if ever — get what's considered a full night of sleep.

Though not officially diagnosed, these sleep habits are consistent with those of a condition known as "short sleeping." Short sleepers, a group The Wall Street Journal once named the "sleepless elite," need only a short amount of sleep every night instead of the average 7-8 hours, and scientists estimate they make up only about 1% of the population.

Mayer, Holmes, and Cramer seem to thrive despite their short sleeping hours. That may be because apart from their extremely long days, there are a few characteristics that most short sleepers that have been identified thus far appear to have:

  • They're tend to be more optimistic and upbeat than most. 
  • They tend to wake up early, even on vacation or weekends.
  • They tend to have a family member that is also a short sleeper. Since short-sleeping is linked to genetics, the behavior that accompanies it often runs in the family.
  • They tend to be physically active.
  • If they sleep longer than they need, they tend to feel groggy.
  • They say they tend to avoid caffeine or don't need it to feel energized.

This is a relatively new area of study. There's still a lot that's unknown about short sleepers and its genetic links. Having some of these traits doesn't necessarily mean you're genetically a short sleeper, nor does not having some of these traits mean you're not a short sleeper.  

The short sleep clinic


Even though it has no apparent negative health effects, short sleeping is considered a sleep disorder.

And although many people think they can get by with just four hours of sleep, for the most part they aren't true short sleepers — they're just chronically sleep deprived.

Ying-Hui Fu, a biologist and human genetics professor at the University of California, San Francisco started studying short sleepers in 1996, when a woman came into the lab asking them to investigate why her whole family woke up at extremely early hours every day. Fu started investigating the traits relating to that family and others who came into the clinic. Soon, she learned that there were three types of people: early risers, night owls, and people who are somewhere in between. Perhaps most importantly, she also learned that there were specific traits linked with all three types.

That launched close to 20 years of studying these sleep behaviors to learn more about how people sleep and how genetics may play a role in that behavior.

"We know almost nothing about how sleep is regulated," Fu told Business Insider.

That's at least partially because the research money isn't there. With other disease areas to focus on, it's hard to see the value in exploring the complicated topic of sleep, though it could be a great area for a potential gene therapy, which is an ever-growing research area. For now, most sleep research money goes into funding treatments for sleeping disorders that deprive them of sleep, and those treatments are focused on helping people sleep more, not less.

But Fu thinks that belies how critical this research is. "Other than water and air, nothing is more important" than sleep, she said. Which is why she's dedicated her lab to learning everything she can.

Abby Ross: Mother, doctor of psychology, marathoner, 'awaker'

Abby Ross has never needed what's considered a full night of sleep.

And for 64 years, Ross didn't have an answer to why she woke up feeling chipper and ready for the day, even after just four hours of sleep. That's when she went to Fu's lab and learned she was a short sleeper.

At 64, she began reading about short sleepers and quickly realized she fit the bill. She decided to contribute to research at Fu's lab, giving blood and answering questions from psychologists and doctors from all over the world. Ross still doesn't know if she has the genes that have since been linked with being a short sleeper. When she joined Fu's study, she agreed that any information the researchers gathered about her genes linked with short sleeping wouldn't be shared with her. The lab's rationale for this, as they described it to Ross, is that if someone who came in with short sleeping symptoms didn't have any of the already-identified short-sleeper genes, that wouldn't mean they weren't technically a short sleeper. Rather, they may have another gene linked with the disorder that Fu's lab has yet to identify. Ross won't ever get her results, though she says the information she's gotten so far is enough.

"I learned that what I have is truly a gift," she told Business Insider.

As long as she can remember, Ross said, she's been a short sleeper, even she didn't have a label for it until recently. When she was young, she'd always be up early to get bagels and coffee with her parents. This early development of short sleeping habits is consistent with other short sleepers, who typically develop the habit sometime in childhood or as a young adult.

At Northwestern University, Ross got her undergraduate degree in three years by taking more classes than the average course load, which just happened naturally for her. To her, an "all-nighter" wasn't a dreaded way to cram in some last-minute studying before a midterm; it was just a regular night. Plus, Ross says, she's always had an easy time falling asleep, so if her body needed an hour or two, she'd take a nap, then pick up right where she left off. After Northwestern, Ross went on to graduate school to study psychology. At the same time, she started a family. And when her daughter was in kindergarten, Ross started her doctorate.

At 35, Ross had two more kids, all while writing her dissertation and raising the first. "If I got up to feed the baby," she recalled, "I could stay up studying psychology."

Ross went on to work at two universities, while staying active in a number of organizations. She did it all, she said, by developing a respect for her body clock.

"It gave me permission to accept that if my husband goes to bed at 10:30, then I stay up," she said. "It's just the way it is."

IMG_5682In true short sleeper form, Ross has led an incredibly active life. Ten years ago, she ran 37 marathons in as many months. In one of those months, she did three marathons. Even now, she tends to log about five miles of walking and other activity on her Fitbit each day.

Ross puts her extra hours to good use, using them to do everything from catalog family photos to catch up with loved ones.

And it runs in the family: Ross' 92-year-old father is also a short sleeper. For years, the two have emailed each other around 5 a.m. every morning to start their days.

For the most part, Ross has embraced her short sleeping gift, in all but name.

"I think the name is really weird" she said, since it sounds like people are referring to her height.

Instead of a short sleeper, Ross would like to be called an "awaker."

Recent developments

Being a short sleeper is, for the most part, genetic.

So far, Fu has pinpointed several genes connected to the disorder. One such gene is DEC2, a gene known to effect our circadian rhythm, the biological process influenced by light and temperature that helps determine when we sleep and when we wake up. The other genes have yet to be published.

One of the main reasons Fu's lab hasn't been able to publish their latest findings is because it takes quite a long time — 10 years, she said — to publish the type of sleep-related paper she is looking to publish. For these studies, researchers have to find and recruit short sleepers, which as only 1% of the population aren't easy to come by. Plus, running the tests can be a lengthy process, as can funding all of the specialists who come in to run the tests and conduct interviews. Finally, processing the data and getting the paper peer reviewed and accepted into a journal can be time consuming as well.

That's because not much money is going into sleep studies, which Fu said is the wrong approach, since understanding sleep habits could help people avoid diseases that are worsened by sleep deprivation.

"Instead of putting the fire out, let’s try to avoid fire," she said.

No official long-term health effects have been linked to being a short sleeper, though Fu said that is one concern her lab is looking into. For the most part, the people coming into Fu's lab are generally anywhere from 40 to 70 years old and in good health. Most stay active into their later years, and Fu said she's even had one volunteer in her lab who was 90 years old, so she hypothesizes that longevity could also be linked with being a short sleeper.

Ideally, Fu hopes to one day crack the code on how to become a short sleeper without being born with it. Then, maybe there will be more research focus to develop a gene therapy that can adapt people into short sleepers.

"I feel someday in the long-distance future, we can all sleep efficiently, and be healthy and smart," she said. "It's appealing to me."

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How huge sheets of pasta become tiny and delicious noodles


Pasta was originally a Chinese invention, but became the centerpiece of Italian cooking less than a century after Marco Polo brought the dish to Venice. Today, it's a staple of international cuisine.

Pasta starts out as a grain, and is ground and mixed with water to form a kind of gritty paste. It's then smoothed into dough, and shaped into different kinds of pastas.

This footage comes from "How It's Made," on the Science Channel. New episodes air Thursday nights at 9pm/8pm central. The season finale is on December 17, and will reveal how channel signs, wetsuits, and aluminum aircrafts are made.

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Go inside Sweden's stunning Ice Hotel, where each year the rooms are hand-carved out of 4,000 tons of ice


Cesares Wake Petros Dermatas Ellie Souti

Jukkasjarvi, a tiny, unassuming village in northern Sweden, has a famous and strange tradition.

Each year, the Ice Hotel pops up within its borders. More than 4,000 tons of ice were mined from the Torne River to create this year's Ice Hotel, which took about two months to build.

Officially opened December 11, the hotel has 19 hand-carved "art suites," each with a unique theme crafted by a different sculptor. 

There's also an ice bar, an ice church, a main hall with five crystal chandeliers, and sculptures on the hotel grounds outside. 

If you're going to see it, go now — it'll be gone by March. Though other ice hotels have popped up around the world, this is the original.

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A 10-foot ice sculpture of an African elephant dominates a suite called "The Elephant in the Room," by Anna Sofia Maag.

"Live Your Time," a room sculpture by Jose Carlos Cabello Millan and Javier Alvaro Colomino Matassa, draws on the concept of time.

Rob Harding and Timsam Harding, a father-son sculpting duo from Spain, put a Mediterranean-inspired spin on cold-weather living, calling their creation "Under the Arctic Skin."

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