Sleeping too little has long been connected with many poor health conditions. The remedy was thought to be encouraging longer periods of sleep. However, it appears from some reasonably large samples and group studies, that too much sleep can have harmful effects. The data suggests that both too much and too little sleep, as measured by the best performing group, was problematic. The data showed increased mortality rates both above and below a positive range of sleep hours. There are many clues and guesses as to why this is, but there are indications that the right amount of sleep depends on the individual.
Findings Stir Interest and More Questions
The idea that the amount of sleep plays a key role in determining life span is a revolutionary one. There have been follow-up studies and examinations of other research to see if the data holds up. The idea that there is a range of average sleep that contributes to health is not new, and medical science has shown this in many ways. Many vital body functions depend on a number of rest hours, during which a REM cycle can be completed. One issue relates to the idea of continuous sleep. In the past, sleep was typically divided into smaller periods.
Too Much Sleep
Above eight hours, the mortality rate rose significantly; more than a 30 percent differential over the middle group. One alternative theory is that people who sleep so much have underlying conditions that contribute such as chronic fatigue or narcolepsy. However, the data has not revealed a widespread alternative explanation; it appears that too much sleep has a harmful effect on health, as it associated with increased death rates.
Too Little Sleep
Those reporting six hours and below showed increased mortality in the middle group by about thirty percent. Research has associated too little sleep with symptoms of sleep deprivation such as fatigue, inability to focus, and low energy. Mental health issues may also contribute to too little sleep and should be discussed with a physician if they become a concern. Those who have trouble sleeping due to breathing problems can use a miracle strap to prevent snoring and adjust their sleep position for improved airflow. Any health problem preventing you from getting adequate sleep is serious enough to be addressed with a health professional.
Seven is Heaven (For Most)
Like Goldilocks in the fable of the three bears—some sleep is too short, some too long, but the six-to- eight-hour range seems to fit the model best, working for most people. This group showed longer lives than the shorter and longer sleep periods. While sleep data may offer conclusions, it is nonetheless poor in one respect—self-reported memories of sleep times are notoriously inaccurate. Most of us overestimate the amount of sleep we get.
The Evidence is Interesting, But Not Definitive
The conclusion raises more issues than answers. There is no hard evidence that individual variations and other health matters do not account for the differences in longevity between the three groups. If one is healthy, sleeps well and also about six to eight hours, then that would cover the best guess about sleep and long-term health. Similarly, if one is happy, healthy and feels well-rested on more or less sleep, there is no solid reason to change. However, as knowledge grows through study, there may be a correlation, and it may well be worth the effort. The current evidence points to the conclusion that restful sleep is more important to mental and physical well-being than the precise amount of sleep. For all of the effort so far, quality of sleep remains the more difficult factor to track, though it still may be the most important aspect of sleep science.