Not getting enough sleep can have a range of consequences that extend far beyond cognitive impairment, reduced alertness and generally impaired quality of life. Sleep deprivation can make you more likely to suffer injury as the result of an accident on the highway or at work, and raise your risk of heart attack, stroke, obesity, psychiatric disorders and other health problems. But did you know that oversleeping can be just as bad for you as sleeping too little?
It’s true. Too much sleep can also raise your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity even more than too little sleep. How much sleep should you get? Researchers have traditionally recommended 7.5 to nine hours of sleep per night, but new evidence is surfacing to suggest that seven to eight hours is ideal. More than eight hours, say some researchers, can be deadly.
Aim for Seven, Not Eight, Hours of Sleep
Dr. Shawn Youngstedt, a sleep researcher with the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University Phoenix, has found in his research on oversleeping that getting seven hours of sleep a night hits the sweet spot between two little and too much sleep. “Eight hours or more has consistently been shown to be hazardous,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
Daniel F. Kripke, emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego, agrees. Dr. Kripke and colleaguesanalyzed six years’ worth of data on 1.1 million people participating in a cancer study. They found that those who slept between 6.5 and 7.4 hours a night were less likely to die than those who slept less than 6.5 hours or more than 7.4 hours. The researchers controlled for 32 factors, including the use of prescription medications, which could have influenced the health and mortality rate of the study participants.
In another of his studies, Dr. Kripke tracked the sleep of 450 older women for a week. At a 10-year follow-up, Dr. Kripke and his team found that those who slept fewer than five hours and more than 6.5 hours were more likely to die.
So how much sleep should you be getting? A study published in the current issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine put five healthy people in what were described as “Stone Age” conditions for two months. Without running water, electricity or clocks, the study participants gradually experienced a marked shift in their sleep habits. Participants were able to fall asleep about two hours earlier on average than before the experiment, and slept about 1.5 more hours each night. Altogether, however, the participants were sleeping about 7.2 hours per night by the end of the study period.
Sleep Needs Vary from One Individual to the Next
While researchers like Dr. Youngstedt and Dr. Kripke believe that sleeping more than eight hours a night could be detrimental to your health, many experts advise taking these studies with a grain of salt. Oversleeping, poor health and higher mortality also seem to correlate with lower socioeconomic status; it’s possible that people who oversleep experience greater disease and mortality rates because they can’t afford the health care they need. It’s also possible that poor health could be causing people to oversleep, rather than the other way around.
More research is needed to understand the consequences of too much sleep, while there is plenty of research to support the negative consequences of sleeping too little. The National Sleep Foundation continues to stress that sleep needs can vary depending on the individual. Kristen L. Knutson, PhD, of the University of Chicago’s Department of Health Studies, points out that most healthy people will wake up naturally once they get enough sleep. Oversleeping often isn’t a concern unless medical or other factors are at play.
How to Get the Right Amount of Sleep
If you’re sleeping more than nine hours a night, you are definitely oversleeping — especially if you still feel groggy the next day or have trouble waking up in the morning. See your doctor to find out if your oversleeping has a medical cause. Canadian Pharmacy Meds can help you get the medicine you need to treat any underlying health conditions that could be contributing to your oversleeping.
If there’s no underlying medical cause for your oversleeping, you may be trying to pay off a sleep debt. Take a sleep vacation that allows you to go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up naturally without an alarm, every morning. If you are paying off a sleep debt, you should be able to return to a more normal, healthy sleep schedule in this way.
Once you have paid off any sleep debt, remember to schedule time for seven to eight hours of sleep a night. If you have trouble waking up in the morning, adjust your wake-up time to match your sleep cycles. A full sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes, and you’ll find it easiest to wake up at the end of a sleep schedule. So count out your sleep time in five 90-minute intervals, so that you’re getting up at the end, rather than in the middle of, a sleep cycle, when your brain and body are already naturally close to wakefulness.
If you go to bed at 10:00 p.m., for example, you will find it easier to get up at 5:30 a.m. than at 6:00 a.m. Even though getting up at 6:00 a.m. gives you an extra 30 minutes of sleep, getting up at 5:30 a.m. allows you to wake at the end of 90-minute sleep cycle and still gives you an optimal amount of sleep.
New research into the effects of oversleeping suggests that it can be just as dangerous for your health as not sleeping enough. If you’re sleeping too much, see your doctor — and if there’s no medical cause for your excessive sleeping, try arranging your sleep schedule to align with your body’s natural rhythms.