too little sleep

  1. A wake-up call for bad sleep habits

    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.

  2. How much sleep does your teen really need?

    Look at all the research on kids and sleep, and two things become clear quickly:

    1) Kids don't need as much as most of us think they do, and
    2) They're still not getting enough anyway.

    One new study looked at 37 sleep guidelines for kids issued since 1897 along with more than 200 studies on how much nightly sleep kids have actually gotten during that time and found a few surprises.

    The number of recommended hours of sleep has decreased over the years, and no matter what those hours are or how much they've decreased, kids always manage to get an average of 37 minutes less.

    Anyone who's ever sent a kid to bed at 8:00 in hopes he or she might actually arrive there by 8:30 (or even 8:37) knows how that is.

    And even a century ago, people blamed technology for all those sleep-avoiding kids, according to the study published in the journal Pediatrics.

    Once upon a time, it was that newfangled lightbulb. Today, it's all the digital entertainment options kids have literally at their fingertips: videogames, text messages, music downloads and probably a few things we adults don't even know about.

    It's bad news for many kids because too little sleep has been linked to any number of physical and mental issues in people of all ages -- and in kids in particular, poor sleep has been connected to everything from obesity to low test scores.

    But surprisingly, the sleep guidelines that have been issued over the years have been based on little to no actual science.

    And while no one's saying kids should be allowed to play videogames until dawn, a new look at data on 1,724 primary and secondary school students across the country finds that kids between 16 and 18 years old actually do better on less sleep.

    Federal guidelines call for nine hours a night, but researchers found the kids with the highest test scores actually got around seven.

    Younger kids, on the other hand, needed a little more: Between nine and 9.5 hours a night for 10-year-olds and between eight and 8.5 hours a night when they reach the age of 12, according to the study in Eastern Economics Journal.

    Of course, research is one thing -- but people are different. Some need more, some need less. If the child or grandchild in your life is tired all the time, they're obviously not getting what they need.

    And if they're not studying when they're awake, then even perfect sleep habits won't boost the grades.

  3. The perfect time to sleep

    A new study finds that people who sleep seven hours a night have a lower risk for common health problems.

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