It is well understood that eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly reduces your risk of death from all causes. The evidence is incontrovertible on those fronts, but the relationship sleep has to your overall health is more ambiguous. According to the NHS, regular poor sleep puts you at risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes – and it shortens your life expectancy.
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Too much sleep is also associated with cardiovascular problems and brain decline.
According to research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, those who slept more than nine hours were 34 percent more likely to have a heart attack.
The Sleep Foundation reports that people who sleep for more than nine hours a night have an increased risk of both dementia and Alzheimer’s compared with those who log six to nine.
So, what is the sweet spot for a long life?
Finding from a large-scale research study may have found a concrete answer.
Researchers in the United Kingdom and Italy analysed data from 16 separate studies conducted over 25 years, covering more than 1.3 million people and more than 100,000 deaths.
According to the findings, published in the journal Sleep, those who generally slept for less than five to seven hours a night were 12 percent more likely to experience a premature death.
People who slept more than eight or nine hours per night had an even higher risk — 30 percent.
Researchers also found that people who reduced their nightly sleep time from seven to eight hours to below seven hours were at an increased risk of death from all causes.
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Additionally, the researchers also saw an increased risk of death from all causes in those who slept for a long amount of time per night.
Tips to aid sleep loss
If you are struggling to get the required amount of sleep each night, there are simple adjustments you can make to fix the problem.
First of all, keep regular sleeping hours.
“This programmes the brain and internal body clock to get used to a set routine,” explains the NHS.
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By working out what time you need to wake up, you can set a regular bedtime schedule, says the health site.
It is also important to try and wake up at the same time every day.
As the NHS explains, while it may seem like a good idea to try to catch up on sleep after a bad night, doing so on a regular basis can also disrupt your sleep routine.
Winding down is also a critical stage in preparing for bed.
The NHS recommends the following:
- A warm bath (not hot) will help your body reach a temperature that’s ideal for rest
- Writing “to do” lists for the next day can organise your thoughts and clear your mind of any distractions
- Relaxation exercises, such as light yoga stretches, help to relax the muscles. Do not exercise vigorously, as it will have the opposite effect
- Relaxation CDs work by using a carefully narrated script, gentle hypnotic music and sound effects to relax you
- Reading a book or listening to the radio relaxes the mind by distracting it
- There are a number of apps designed to help with sleep.
- Avoid using smartphones, tablets or other electronic devices for an hour or so before you go to bed as the light from the screen on these devices may have a negative effect on sleep.
Revising your diet to include certain items may also promote sleep.
“Skip the white bread, refined pasta, and sugary, baked goods, which may reduce serotonin levels and impair sleep,” Advises the National Sleep Foundation.
Instead, opt for “stick-to-your-ribs whole grains” for your bedtime snack – popcorn, oatmeal, or whole-wheat crackers with nut butter are all good choices, it says.
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