It Comes to Sleep,
Less May Be More
By Melinda T. Willis, ABCNEWS.com
In fact, people
who reported sleeping more than eight hours a night have a 15 percent
greater chance of dying, for any reason, than people who sleep seven
hours a night. The same holds true for those who slept less than
four or five hours, found researchers from the University of California,
San Diego, and the American Cancer Society.
The use of
sleeping pills was also associated with an increased mortality of
25 percent. And perhaps surprisingly, people who reported themselves
to be insomniacs were not found to have any increased risk.
which appears in the current issue of Archives of General Psychiatry,
used data collected by the American Cancer Society in 1982 and 1988
that documents the sleep habits (including use of sleeping pills)
of 1.1 million men and women ranging in age from 30 to 102.
"The main implication
is good news," said Dr. Daniel Kripke, professor of psychiatry at
UCSD and lead author of the study. "The average American sleeps
six and a half hours [a night] and people who sleep five, six, or
seven hours are perfectly safe and don't need to sleep any more."
Less, Live Longer?
that the results of this study demonstrate only that there is a
relationship between sleep and mortality and do not explain the
There may also
be confounding factors that prevent these results from being extended
to the general population.
the study population [friends and relatives of American Cancer Society
volunteers] is not a random sample and does not represent the entire
population," said a representative of the National Sleep Foundation.
"Geographic, racial and other factors of the study group are not
While the idea
that sleeping less will lead to longer life cannot yet be proven,
it has been examined in previous research.
"Most of the
studies seem to support the idea that people who are very long sleepers
and short sleepers may live less," said Dr. Phyllis Zee, director
of the sleep center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
"But why? Is it a sleep-related issue, or is there an underlying
problem for which sleep is a symptom?"
line is that it is still too early to say whether setting the alarm
clock an hour earlier will help anyone break longevity records.
"If you have
results [from studies] like these, it does not mean that people
need less sleep," added Zee. "It could, but I don't think that it
should be interpreted that way at least not until more studies
even if further research confirms that short or long sleepers have
higher mortality rates, experts say they will still stress the importance
of a good night's sleep, because living longer does not necessarily
mean living better.
many reasons to continue to urge people to obtain adequate sleep,"
says the National Sleep Foundation, which notes that bad moods,
a higher risk for accidents and negative effects on the immune system
are all associated with inadequate sleep. "Mortality is not the
only important outcome measure."
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