It is said that moderation
is key. This is true even when it comes to sleep.
So if you routinely find
yourself sleep deprived because you really need 8 hours but only get five…or if
you’re someone who likes to lie between the sheets for nine or ten hours when
your body is fine with just seven hours of sleep, then you may be setting
yourself up for an early death.
Sorry to sound so dramatic.
The study actually
- Sleeping less
than 6 hours a night was associated to a 12
per cent higher chance of premature death compared to sleeping the
recommended 6 to 8 hours.
- This finding was
based on pooled data from more than 1.3 million participants worldwide.
- Some potentially
better news: although consistently
sleeping 9 or more hours a night was also linked to an increased risk of death,
the researchers concluded this was probably for different reasons than not
Why the difference? Well,
sleeping less-than-necessary may cause ill-health, whereas being a
long sleeper (sleeping more than is biologically necessary) is believed to
represent more an indicator of ill-health.
Short sleepers’ poor sleep habits could be the chief culprit for triggering their medical conditions. Though sleep deprivation has been
linked to a smorgasbord of medical ailments, from heart
disease to obesity,
the same cannot be said for sleeping too much.
Longer sleepers’ time
between the sheets may indicate that something
else is wrong, fueling their need to catch those excess zzz’s. Consistently sleeping 9 or more hours
(in adults) is a wake-up call for longer sleepers to see a doctor and find out
if something other than a biological need for sleep is keeping them in bed.
Few people have the problem
of banking too much sleep. It’s the other end of the spectrum—sleeping too
little—that drives a huge epidemic of so
many of the sleep disorders in this country.
Unfortunately, the threat of a shorter life for being a short sleeper isn’t a
strong enough threat to get people to change their habits. If it were, then we’d
see the same pressure to change habits among overweight people who live with a
higher risk of illness and premature death due to their weight. Most
habits are hard to break or change.
But I have to say, it’s likely
much easier to change a bad sleep habit than to change a bad eating habit. Don’t
Bottom line: find the happy medium
between the short and long end of the sleep spectrum. Find your sweet spot for sleep.
Moderation is key. Moderation is magic. After all, if
there’s one time you want to go long, it's life.
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™