Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 3rd 2015 Contents A24
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, March 3, 2015
You can, in fact, have too much of
a good thing---even sleep, new research
People who sleep more than eight
hours per night have a significantly
higher risk for stroke than those who
snooze six to eight hours, according to
a study published online Wednesday
in the journal Neurology.
In the study, researchers followed
approximately 9,600 older adults (aver-
age age: 62) for about ten years. During
that period, subjects who reported
clocking more than eight hours of shut-
eye nightly were 46 per cent more likely
to have a stroke, compared with indi-
viduals with more moderate sleep dura-
tions. Even when researchers accounted
for factors such as high blood pressure
and physical activity that may have
skewed the findings, long sleepers still
had an elevated stroke risk.
Short sleep (less than six hours) was
associated with a small hike in stroke
risk, but the data wasn t statistically
significant (meaning the results could
be due to chance.)
"It is worth noting excessive sleep
as an early sign of increased stroke risk,
particularly among older people," the
study authors write. Previous large
research studies in the US and China
have found similar associations between
sleep duration and stroke.
The new research adds to a large
body of evidence that shows both sleep-
ing too little and sleeping too much are
associated with poorer health and an
increased risk for mortality.
Long sleepers have about a 20 to 30
per cent increased risk for mortality,
according to recent meta-analyses.
Among short sleepers, that number is
about ten per cent. Dozens of health
problems can encourage people to sleep
more, which may partly explain the
association between long sleep and
stroke or mortality.
"It s hard to think of a health con-
dition that doesn t increase how much
you sleep," says W Christopher Winter,
MD, owner of Charlottesville Neurology
and Sleep Medicine and the medical
director of the Martha Jefferson Sleep
Research shows that depression, can-
cer treatment, a recent heart attack,
and even high cholesterol are all asso-
ciated with lengthy snooze sessions.
(For what it s worth, short sleep is also
linked to numerous health problems,
including obesity and diabetes.)
"Generally speaking, when individ-
uals are not healthy, there is a tendency
to want to sleep more. It s the body s
natural response," Winter tells Yahoo
"The chemicals are working toward
trying to restore health to the individual,
but in the meantime they re feeding
back to certain parts of the brain that
Poor sleep quality may also partly
explain the connection between long
bedtime hours and health problems,
Winter says. For example, if you have
sleep apnea (a common disorder in
which your breathing stops numerous
times during the night, making sleep
unrefreshing), you might snooze longer
to try to make up for interrupted shut-
eye. (The authors of the recent stroke
study write that this may have, in fact,
played a role in their findings.)
Long sleep duration is linked to
inflammation, the stroke study s authors
explain. And inflammation may con-
tribute to cardiovascular problems and,
down the line, stroke and an increased
risk for early death.
Winter hypothesises that extended
sleep, especially when it s part of an
irregular schedule, might throw off the
body s sleep rhythms. "Sleep is dynamic
at night---there are a lot of things going
on," he says. "Many hormones all get
set based upon sleep rhythms." When
those rhythms get out of whack, hor-
mones and other body systems aren t
regulated as well, he explains.
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and advice
Sleeping too much can
be a sign of ill health.
HOW MUCH SLEEP SHOULD YOU GET?
The National Sleep Foundation
released new age-based sleep
guidelines in February. The updated
recommendations say most adults need
between seven and nine hours per
In his practice, Winter uses seven
hours of sleep as a touchstone. If
someone sleeps eight, nine, or ten
hours, he'll investigate to see if extra
doze time is making up for restless
sleep. Sometimes the cause of bad
sleep is obvious---a new baby at home
or moving to a noisy apartment. Other
times, a sleep study might be
warranted to check for disorders that
can cause poor-quality sleep.
Sleep needs vary from person to
person, Winter says, and it may take
some experimentation to find your
sweet spot. If you function well on 5.5
hours, for example, try going to 6.5 and
see if you feel any better or worse. Any
change in sleep habits is "a big red flag,"
"Any time there's been a change in
sleeping where you need more, that's
unusual. Usually as life goes on you
need less sleep."
Dozing more than you used to could
signal depression, a sleep disorder, or
another health problem. So if you have
any noticeable changes in sleep habits,
he advises mentioning it to your doctor.
"There are people out there who are
long sleepers who are normal and
healthy, so you shouldn't panic one way
or the other," Winter says.
"It's pretty difficult to sleep more
than you need to sleep."
Is it possible to
sleep too much?
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