This is interesting. If we really can induce controlled hibernation in humans, then the stars may not be so far out of reach after all.
Can humans hibernate?
The answer, remarkable as it might seem, is an unequivocal “yes.” In fact, until relatively recently the idea of humans sleeping through most of the winter wasn’t even seen as uncommon. There are stories of peasants effectively hibernating as late as the 19th century in both frigid Siberia and the comparatively temperate French countryside. From what we can tell, this wasn’t strictly hibernation – the peasants’ core temperatures didn’t drop, and they still woke up once a day or so to eat a small biscuit before going back to bed. Still, they changed their lifestyles to use just a fraction of their normal energy requirements, which is essentially what hibernation is.
And there are even more dramatic individual examples. Consider the case of the then 35-year-old Japanese man Mitsuka Uchikoshi, who in 2006 spent over three weeks unconscious on the freezing Rokko Mountain before making a full recovery. Writing for Discover in 2007, Alex Stone recounts the remarkable story:
“they still woke up once a day or so to eat a small biscuit before going back to bed.”
On a cold, winter’s day that sounds like quite a tempting prospect: staying in bed and only getting up for a biscuit – which possibly just confirms that we do, indeed, have the inclination towards hibernation in us!
Yep, it’s probably a semi-dormant survival mechanism for long periods without food. Although it’s also interesting that it mostly seems to be triggered by cold.