Yourself to Death
A study called
“Mortality associated with sleep duration and insomnia” found the best
survival was among those who slept 7 hours a night.1 People
who slept 8 hours or more, or 6 hours or less, had an increased risk of
dying. Prescription sleeping pill use also was associated with an
increased risk of dying. However, people reporting that they suffered
with insomnia was not associated with an increase in the risk of an
earlier death. This study involved 1.2 million men and women between the
ages of 30 and 102 years.
information should help quiet misguided experts who have been recommending
you “sleep your life away.” There are health professionals who believe
more sleep is the answer to most of our health problems. However, in
truth, the ideal amount of sleep we need for optimal health, based on good
scientific research, is a lot less than you have probably heard.
Certainly we need some sleep to rejuvenate, re-energize, and restore
ourselves. Studies have shown that without enough sleep a person's ability
to perform even simple tasks declines dramatically, resulting in impaired
performance, irritability, lack of concentration, and daytime drowsiness.
Drowsiness is a very serious matter when it comes to driving or operating
other dangerous machinery. From our earliest childhood we have been
taught sleep is good for us, and the more the better. The refreshment
derived from a good night’s sleep, and the associated relief we enjoy from
pain and worry while we are asleep, reinforces such advice. More sleep is
also recommend in order to look better – “beauty rest.”
But, like most of our
behaviors, there is a down side to too much sleep. Besides wasting
valuable waking moments, too much sleep is the leading cause of
depression. And less sleep can relieve serious depression.2 A
scientific review of studies found an average of 59 percent of patients
showed a marked decrease in depressive symptoms the day after a night of
sleep deprivation.3 Sixty-seven percent of people diagnosed
with depression responded positively to sleep deprivation. Why? Because
sleep produces a “depressogenic substance.” Therefore, for many people
less sleep means relief of depression. Using less sleep to control
depression has the following advantages: Sleep deprivation is highly
effective, works quickly, is easy to administer, inexpensive,
self-administered, and the effects are rapid. (You can read more about
this in The
McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss book.)
The current population
sleep average is 6 to 7 hours a night.4 Young children,
pregnant women, and people who are ill require more sleep than average.
As we age, most people require less sleep. One way to determine personal
sleep requirements is by waking up without an alarm clock. However, a
better way to find the amount of sleep you need is by “trial and error.”
Find what you require to wake up feeling refreshed and well-rested in the
morning and to remain alert all day -- without suffering from depression.
For most healthy adults that will be about 6 to 7 ˝ hours – maybe, by no
coincidence, an amount associated with the least risk of death. Is this
just another example of the mind-body connection where happy people live
longer and healthier? That’s one of my conclusions.
Kripke DF. Mortality associated with sleep duration and insomnia.
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2002 Feb;59(2):131-6.
Gillin JC. Sleep deprivation as a model experimental antidepressant
treatment: findings from functional brain imaging. Depress Anxiety.
Wu JC. Effect of sleep deprivation on brain metabolism of
depressed patients. Am J Psychiatry. 1992 Apr;149(4):538-43.
Jean-Louis G. Sleep duration, illumination, and activity patterns
in a population sample: effects of gender and ethnicity. Biol Psychiatry.
2000 May 15;47(10):921-7.