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Too much or too little sleep can kill you

How much sleep do you get every night? In this era, many people don’t get nearly enough sleep that they need. Then others will sleep way to much thinking there is some extra benefit from allowing the body to rest longer. Neither of these work - you need to attune to your body the correct amount of sleep each night.

Not getting enough sleep increases stress levels and decreases health. The body needs time to heal and repair, which is done while you sleep. People who get less than 6 hours of sleep at night have an increased probability of obesity. Getting enough sleep enables you to stay alert during the day, which will prevent accidents and improve memory recall and decision making. By not getting enough sleep you are shortening your life.

Too much sleep also causes problems. Getting nine or more hours of sleep regularly at night increases mortality rates (Ferrie). Most people who sleep longer just on weekends report that they don’t feel any better than sleeping within the normal range. Catching up on weekends is not the cure either.

How much sleep is enough? It depends on several factors, mostly generalized on age. Infants sleep about 16 hours a day. Preschoolers sleep about 11 hours, school kids about 10. Teenagers need about 9 hours. Adults require about 7 to 8 hours a night.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine offers the following advice on how to get an optimal night’s sleep:

* Follow a consistent bedtime routine.
* Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime.
* Get a full night’s sleep every night.
* Avoid foods or drinks that contain caffeine, as well as any medicine that has a stimulant, prior to bedtime.
* Do not go to bed hungry, but don’t eat a big meal before bedtime either.
* Avoid any rigorous exercise within six hours of your bedtime.
* Make your bedroom quiet, dark and a little bit cool.
* Get up at the same time every morning.

Reference

Ferrie JE, et al “A prospective study of change in sleep duration: associations with mortality in the Whitehall II cohort” Sleep 2007; 30: 1659-1666.

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