Are you sleeping too much? Or not enough?

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How much sleep do you really need? The answer may surprise you:

People who get five to seven hours of sleep nightly are almost twice as likely to develop early signs of blood-vessel damage as those who get more rest, according to a five-year study published in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association. Those who regularly sleep less than five hours a night are at even higher risk.

Abnormal sleep patterns skew the release of appetite-related hormones, which may contribute to obesity and diabetes, earlier studies showed. Today’s research is the first to suggest a shorter night’s sleep may have a more direct and damaging effect on heart health, said Diane Lauderdale, the University of Chicago epidemiologist who led the research team.

“There’s mounting evidence that really short sleep duration, as in less than five hours a night, may well have health consequences,” she said Dec. 22 in a telephone interview. “It’s pretty safe to say that it’s a good idea to get more than five hours of sleep a night.”

Basically you need seven, but not more than that:
However, the scientists also found that sleeping more than 7 hours a night may also be bad for us. Among the civil servants who increased their nightly sleeping period from 7 hours per night to 8 hours per night or more, the overall mortality rate more than doubled! In this case, cardiovascular problems did not seem to be the main cause of death. The scientist are still trying to establish what lies behind these findings, and what is the true reason for these high mortality rates in well-rested people. In any case, based on these results, it seems clear that sleeping too much is also not recommended.

Another study found similar results.

What Hammond had not expected to find was that the death rates from heart attacks and strokes were higher for both men and women if they regularly slept more than seven hours a night. Seven seemed to be the ideal number of sleep hours; there were only slightly higher than average death rates for people who got less sleep. But among those who slept eight hours, women under 50 had a 53% above normal death rate from heart attacks, and both men and women under 50 had increases of more than 40% in the death rate from strokes. With nine hours' sleep, both sexes had generally but not consistently higher death rates. With ten hours' sleep, the death rate for women over 70 increased 167%, while for men aged 50 to 59, it increased 286%.

But I find it implausible that everybody requires the same amount of sleep. Some people get by just fine on 3 hours, some seem to need 9 hours. I think you have to figure for for yourself how much you need. Generally speaking as long as you are regular about when you go to sleep, your body will wake up at the right time.

But it's important to keep in mind that you can get TOO MUCH sleep. Most people just think lack of sleep or sleep deprivation is a health risk, but so is oversleeping.

The best way to sleep is to skip the nightlife and turn in at 10. If you're a normal healthy adult, you will end up waking up around 4 or 5, and that's all the sleep you need.

If you get tired in the afternoon, don't take a nap. How many times has that 15 minute powernap turned into a 2-hour sleepfest? If that happens it ruins your sleep cycle. Instead just schedule active things for the time of the day when you are likely to be tired. In other words, do something physical, or drink some caffeine or whatever you need to do so stay awake. And eat the lightest of lunches. That helps. Fortunately that phase of the day is just a temporary phase. As long as you get over that little hump, the rest of the day is fine and you should have plenty of energy.


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