Miles to Go Before I Sleep

Does getting too much or too little sleep affect your health?  Or even how long you are likely to live?

Even though Lewis Terman began researching the relationship between sleep and health in 1913, how much or little sleep you need to have a healthy life is still open to debate.   Certainly, health researchers have long known that sleep problems are linked to a wide range of medical issues.   Whether it be increased depression, anxiety, or hostility, work-related problems, loneliness, or poor physical health in general,  numerous studies have demonstrated the damage arising from loss of sleep.   Amount of sleep can impact  medical problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.

Perhaps even more importantly, getting enough sleep at night can be a good predictor of overall risk of premature death.    As early as 1964, a research study showed that adult males sleeping an average of seven hours of sleep at night had the lowest mortality risk.     Even getting too much sleep can have a negative impact on mortality.   A 1979 research study found that adults sleeping more than ten hours or fewer than four hours had an increased mortality risk.   Reviews of different studies examining sleep duration found that people getting too much sleep were at increaed risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer.   Though getting too little sleep was also linked to higher mortality, there was no clear pattern involving cause of death.    

Which still raises the question of why having too much or too little sleep can lead to health problems.  Or even if there a direct causal link     To rule out other possibilities and to understand the long-term impact of sleep problems on overall mortality, a new research study published in Health Psychology looks at the link between sleep duration (number of hours of sleep each night) and life expectancy. 

To read more, check out my new Psychology Today post.


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