You may be aware of the recent scientific and social buzz about sleeping patterns and health effects. This is in fact not new, the relationship between sleep duration and health has been known for a long time.
The optimal sleep duration for an individual is difficult to determine and is influenced by a multitude of factors. It's also not very easy to prove a direct causal effect between some health conditions and sleep duration.
It is all too clear that having adequate sleep has proven benefits. These include cardiovascular health and mental health benefits, from good memory to lower rates of depression. Good sleep curbs inflammation, leading to lower rates of inflammatory-related diseases like arthritis, diabetes and stroke.
Those who get adequate sleep appear to live longer as well. Most experts advise getting somewhere between seven to nine hours of sleep every day. Sleeping, more or less, predisposes you to ill health.
The much-talked about sleep study done in 2010 in the US has raised several sleepy and non-sleepy discussion points. The sleep patterns of over 50,000 adults were analyzed and related to chronic diseases.
The diseases of interest were cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes. The study concluded that those who sleep shorter (less than six hours), or longer (more than 10 hours) have higher risks of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
If you are a scientist, you may wish to look closely at how the study was done and you could spot some limitations. If you are a lay person, all you want to know is how the study conclusions relate to your sleeping patterns.
Either way, your overall health is affected by how much you sleep. You don't even need a study to tell you this. Deprive yourself of sleep for several days and see what effect that has on your overall productivity. Or just try sleeping the whole day and see what happens.
What you need is a good balance of your sleep and wakeful periods. Aim for at least six hours of good sleep every day. Resist the temptation to sleep beyond 10 hours. What you do every day will have an influence on how much you sleep.
And so will anything else that you ingest, including foods, beverages, medicines or other stimulants. There can never be a one-fits-all recommendation. Some of us need more sleep, while others can do with very little. What is important is to find a balance that works for you.
Do not suddenly lose any sleep over your sleeping patterns. You are allowed to enjoy the occasional long snooze, or the odd late night. What you must desist from is a persistent state of sleep deprivation, or repeated prolonged hours of sleep.
All these seem to interfere with the body's dynamic health mechanisms, and can predispose you to various diseases.