Too Much or Too Little Sleep, Problems with Both

sleep_longHow many hours do you sleep a day? Study after study has shown the health problems associated with a lack of sleep, but too much sleep can be a problem too. Both getting too little sleep and too much sleep have been linked with chronic diseases, including diabetes, obesity and coronary heart disease in adults age 45 and older. A new study from the CDC says that, for adults, the optimal amount of sleep per 24 hour period is seven to nine hours.

More than 54,000 participants were involved in the study, from 14 different states. Nearly one third of participants (about 31 percent) were identified as short sleepers (six or less hours on average), about 64 percent were classified as optimal sleepers (seven to nine hours), and only four percent of participants were long sleepers (10 or more hours).  The short sleepers reported a higher prevalence of obesity, frequent mental distress, coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, compared with optimal sleepers. The same was true for long sleepers, and the associations with diabetes, stroke and coronary heart disease were even more pronounced in this group.

The idea that getting too much sleep can be bad for your health may be surprising to some people, but experts explain that sleeping longer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sleeping well–both the quality and quantity of sleep affect your health. The study authors advise patients with chronic conditions to speak with a sleep medicine physician. Common sleep illnesses such as sleep apnea and insomnia often occur in people with a chronic disease and they can affect sleep quality. Treating sleep illnesses could significantly improve disease symptoms and overall quality of life.

Additionally, some of the relationships observed in the study between unhealthy sleep durations and chronic diseases were explained in part by frequent mental distress and obesity. This suggests that doctors should consider monitoring mental health and body weight in addition to sleep health in patients with chronic diseases.  The study was published in the October issue of the Journal SLEEP.

Other recent research highlights the benefits of getting enough shut-eye at night. A Spanish study found that melatonin, a natural hormone that increases in the body in the dark during sleep, helps control weight gain because it stimulates the appearance of ‘beige fat’.  While white fat tissue stores calories leading to weight gain, ‘beige fat’ helps regulate body weight control and is known to have metabolic benefits. You can read more about the findings here.

Related Reading: Sleep Quality Improves After Lap-Band Surgery

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