We all know sleep is important, but how many hours of it do we need? According to a large study of more than 7,500 people, the University College London Medical School found that sleeping a consistent 7 to 8 hours every night was best for optimal health.
Jane Ferrie, Ph.D., lead author of this study, looked at sleep habits and mortality risk in the patient group to see if change in a person’s sleep time caused any change in risk for death.
When study participants decreased their sleep time below their typical 7 to 8 hours, they increased their risk for death due to heart attack or stroke.
But here’s a surprise: The researchers also found that an increase in sleep duration from 7 or 8 hours a night to 9 or more hours a night increased the risk of death. Furthermore, they found that people who initially slept 5 to 6 hours or less a night and increased their sleep to 7 to 8 hours a night lowered their risk of death.
Basically, this study shows that increasing or decreasing sleep time from a typical 7 to 8 hour per night routine increases risk of death.
To optimize your health, you need to optimize your sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends the following sleeping habits for getting optimum rest:
- Follow a consistent bedtime routine
- Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime
- Get a full night’s sleep (7 to 8 hours) every night
- Avoid foods or drinks with caffeine prior to bedtime
- Do not go to bed hungry or too full
- Avoid rigorous exercise within several hours of your bedtime
- Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and slightly cool
- Get up at the same time every morning
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- Use your bed for sleep and intimacy only. Watching television in bed can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
- Wait to get into bed until you are actually ready to go to sleep.
- Some people benefit from a white noise generator at bedtime to help get to sleep. White noise helps mask external or traffic noises and can cover up unsettling silence. (I have realized that many of my patients use a fan for this purpose.)
- Don’t have a fan that blows directly on your face—this can lead to sinus irritation and congestion.
- Keep a piece of paper and pen by your bed so that any recurrent or lingering worry can be written down to review in the morning. It is best to clear your mind. If you’re worried about forgetting something important, write it down.
For more information, check out the website www.sleepeducation.com created by the AASM.