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Getting 6 hours or less of sleep a night not good for your health

By Joan Firstenberg     May 5, 2010 in Health
How much sleep is healthy? Turns out if you get too little sleep, or if you sleep too much, you could meet with a premature death.
I might be a way of life for Yogis and other unusual humans to get very little sleep each night and still be okay. But the BBC reports that UK and Italian researchers have discovered that people who generally get less than six hours of sleep a night, are more likely to die than those who get more.
The "ideal" night of sleep runs from six to eight hours. But the researchers say sleeping for over nine hours can also bring on an early death as well.
They said people regularly having this little sleep were 12% more likely to die over 25 years or less than those who got the six to eight hours.
The findings are reported in "Sleep Journal", based on 1.5 million people in 16 studies.
The study looked at the relationship between sleep and mortality by reviewing earlier studies from the UK, US and European and East Asian countries.
But the researchers say that while a lack of sleep may be a direct cause of ill-health, ultimately leading to an earlier death, too much sleep may merely be a marker of ill health already in place.
Professor Francesco Cappuccio, leader of the Sleep, Health and Society Programme at the UK's University of Warwick, says:
"Modern society has seen a gradual reduction in the average amount of sleep people take and this pattern is more common amongst full-time workers, suggesting that it may be due to societal pressures for longer working hours and more shift-work. On the other hand, the deterioration of our health status is often accompanied by an extension of our sleeping time. Five hours is insufficient for most people ”
Sleep expert Professor Jim Horne, of the Loughborough Sleep Research Centre, says sleep may just be a reflection of the person's other issues.
"Sleep is just a litmus paper to physical and mental health. Sleep is affected by many diseases and conditions, including depression. And getting improved sleep may not make someone better or live longer. But having less than five hours a night suggests something is probably not right. Five hours is insufficient for most people and being drowsy in the day increases your risk of having an accident if driving or operating dangerous machinery."
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