Woman in bed awake

Why you need the right amount of sleep

Sleep is absolutely an essential and central part of your health. Poor quality sleep is a bad for many aspects of your wellbeing but that doesn’t mean that you just need to sleep as much as you can. Yes, too little sleep is bad for you, but a new study shows that as far as risk factors for heart disease go too much sleep is bad as well and there is in fact an optimal amount of sleep that you need.

The results showed that people who sleep either short or long hours or who are evening people ("night owls") are more likely to smoke, remain sedentary and eat fewer fruits and vegetables.

The new study drew on data from almost 440,000 men and women aged 40-69 in the United Kingdom’s Biobank Resource. The researchers sought to see if there is a correlation between risk factors for heart disease like smoking, sedentary behaviour, and fruit and vegetable consumption. These risk factors make up for about 40 per cent of heart disease risk. They analysed this by assessing subject’s indications of how much time they spent watching the computer, watching TV, how many cigarettes they smoked, and how many fruits and vegetables they had each day. Subjects were also classified by their “chronotype”, which was their self-reported sleep timing, whether they considered themselves a morning person , more morning than evening, more evening than morning, or an evening person. The subjects also reported number of hours slept per night.

For the study short sleep was defined as less than six hours per night, adequate sleep as 7-8 hours, and long sleep as nine hours or more.

The results showed that people who sleep either short or long hours or who are evening people (“night owls”) are more likely to smoke, remain sedentary and eat fewer fruits and vegetables.

Health messages often say that we need to get more sleep but that is not necessarily true if you are sleeping for 7-8 hours a night. It seems sleep is like so much else in life; it’s not just a matter of getting more or less, it’s about finding the magical point of balance.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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