Judging by myself and my patients — not to mention the bags under the eyes of many of the people I meet each day — I’d say the biggest problem when it comes to sleep is that we don’t get nearly enough of it.
But believe it or not, it’s possible to go too far in the other direction as well. Like all good things, you can get way too much sleep — and too much sleep can be every bit as dangerous as too little.
One new study spells out the risks I’ve seen before: More than eight hours of sleep a night will boost your risk of chest pain and coronary artery disease.
Of course, the study also confirms that those of us who don’t get enough should hit the hay a little earlier — because less than six hours a night can double your risk of heart attack or stroke.
Too little sleep can also boost the odds of congestive heart failure by 70 percent, according to the study of more than 3,000 people ages 45 and up presented at a recent American College of Cardiology conference.
That means the sweet spot for sleep — for most people anyway — is between six and eight hours a night, or right around the seven nightly hours I’ve seen recommended from other studies.
One of those studies found that less than six and more than eight hours can boost the risk of cognitive problems. Too little sleep leads to problems in reasoning, vocabulary, and global cognition, while too much sleep can actually hurt up to six cognitive functions, according to British researchers.
Another study in 2010 looked at even more extreme levels of sleep, and found even more extreme results. Less than five hours a night doubles the risk of angina, heart disease, heart attack, or stroke — while nine or more boosts the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke.
What does this mean for you? Get the right amount of sleep, of course.
Just don’t turn to meds for help. Common sleep drugs can increase the risk of a number of health problems, up to and including death itself.