The other day I was eating lunch with my sister. She looked as if she hadn’t slept in days—she had droopy bags under her eyes and could hardly keep the conversation going without a jolt of caffeine.
She confessed that she had been working a lot of early mornings and that she couldn’t remember the last time she slept a solid eight consecutive hours.
Sadly, not getting enough sleep is an epidemic in the U.S. The National Institutes of Health recommends seven to eight hours of sleep daily for adults. Other research also suggests that seven-and-a half to nine hours of sleep is best. Yet, many struggle to come close to that amount.
In fact, it is estimated that 50 to 70 million Americans are deprived of sleep. Not enough sleep can impact your health in a big way. Insomnia and other sleep problems can raise your risk of thyroid problems, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer.On the other end of the scale, did you know that too much sleep can lead to a host of health problems? That day I had lunch with my sister, I had made it a point to go to bed early the night before and got a solid 10 hours of shuteye. Ironically, in the morning I still felt drowsy and fatigued. Why is that?
Five Health Risks of Too Much Sleep
1. Increased Risk of Depression
Too little sleep has long been associated with depression. However, more than eight consecutive hours of sleep can also lead to some people feeling depressed. In a 2014 study published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE, researchers discovered an association between long sleepers (sleeping for eight hours or more) and psychiatric diseases, such as depression.The study observed a cross-sectional national sample of 24,671 people between 15 years old and 85 years old. Participants who slept for more than eight hours complained of more depressive symptoms than the subjects who got seven to eight hours of sleep. There are also several meta-analyses that show a correlation between higher depression rates and longer sleepers.
2. Impaired Brain Health
Evidence suggests that sleep deprivation can affect cognitive function. Too much sleep will also affect brain health. A 2011 study published in the journal Sleep found that too little or too much sleep is associated with poor cognitive function, as well as the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease in women.
3. Increased Risk of Diabetes
Diabetes is a common risk factor associated with sleep problems and sleep deprivation. It is suggested that seven to eight hours of sleep per night can decrease the risk of chronic diseases, including diabetes. In a 2010 analysis published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, researchers analyzed 56,507 people who responded to a U.S. National Health Survey—they discovered that there was a link between long sleep hours and diabetes.
In another 2008 study published in the journal Sleep Medicine, researchers discovered that less than seven hours and over eight hours of sleep daily would more than double the risk of diabetes. The Quebec researchers analyzed the sleep patterns of 276 people during a six-year period. About 20% of those with short and long sleep patterns developed type-2 diabetes, and only seven percent developed diabetes with normal sleep duration.
4. Weight Gain
Sleep loss and an increased risk of obesity are also widely associated. But did you know that you could also gain weight by hitting the snooze button and sleeping in longer? In the same 2008 study published in the journal Sleep Medicine, Quebec researchers discovered that both short and long sleeping patterns lead to weight gain and obesity in adults. In this case, long sleep duration meant nine to 10 hours of sleep. Long duration sleepers were 25% more likely to pile on at least 11 pounds over a six-year period.
5. Heart Problems
Sleeping eight hours or more each night is also connected with an increased risk of hypertension, angina, coronary artery disease, and other cardiovascular-related conditions. For instance, in a 2003 Nurses’ Health Study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine; researchers determined that nine or more hours of sleep increased the risk of coronary heart disease. The cohort study included 71,617 American females between the ages of 45 and 65.
The participants filled out a questionnaire about sleep duration and then researchers followed up with them 10 years later. In total, there were 934 coronary events.
Tips to Get the Right Amount of Sleep
So, how do you stick to just seven to eight hours of sleep each night? There are a few easy tips you can follow to help you feel rested every morning:
• Keep a sleep schedule: Pick a bedtime and stick with it. A consistent sleep pattern will help regulate your body’s clock, and you will wake up naturally without an alarm.
• Remove electronic devices from your bedroom: Your computer, cellphone, and other electronic devices will emit electromagnetic field (EMF) frequencies. This can disturb your sleep pattern and lead to stress.
• Get regular exercise: Light, relaxing exercise, like yoga, before bed can result in a more restful sleep.
• Avoid late night snacks: It is best to avoid eating large meals at night, because your digestive system needs a break before bed. Stimulants like nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol will also keep you up at night. Even chocolate contains caffeine! It will be beneficial to your digestion if you stop eating after dinner.
• Wake up naturally: When you keep a sleep schedule and follow these tips, you may find that you will wake up naturally without the “jolting” noise from an alarm clock.
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