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Monday, March 17, 2008

If You Sleep This Little, You'll Die Sooner

Turn off the TV. Shut down the computer. Go to bed. Now. People who regularly sleep less than the recommended seven to eight hours a night are more likely to die earlier than those who get more shuteye. But just because a little is good doesn't mean a lot is better. People who sleep more than eight hours have a significantly higher risk of dying early, too, reports Reuters Health of a new study from University College London.

For 17 years, the researchers, led by Dr. Jane E. Ferrie, followed nearly 10,000 adults in the United Kingdom who ranged in age from 35 to 55 years old. They found that those who slept less were more likely to die of heart disease or stroke than those who regularly slept seven to eight hours a night, and those who slept nine or more hours a night were twice as likely to die from both cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular causes.

Although the team did not pinpoint the reasons for the findings, previous research has shown that chronic sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on the cardiovascular system. When we sleep, our bodies are given a chance to recoup from the day, which means both blood pressure and heart rate drop, easing strain on the heart. Ferrie told Reuters Health that some previous research has linked sleep deprivation to poorer appetite control and blood-sugar regulation, which can affect body weight and the risk of type 2 diabetes, which in turn can boost the odds of developing heart disease.

It's also not known why those who sleep longer than eight hours have a higher risk of dying early, but Ferrie said some illnesses, such as cancer or depression, can cause fatigue. What they found was startling. Those who were sleeping more than eight hours a night at the beginning of the study but were getting less sleep later on had double the risk of dying from both cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular causes. Ferrie explained that the study findings suggest that the risk of an early death increases when sleep times veer from the "ideal" seven to eight hours. "Burning the candle at both ends or sleeping for nine or more hours is not ideal over prolonged periods in terms of good health," Ferrie told Reuters Health.

The study findings were published in the medical journal Sleep.
source: Netscape.com

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