Sleep Right, Live Bright: Why 7 Hours of Zzz’s Could Be Your Health Hero

Not getting enough sleep at night can harm your health, but so can getting too much. Striking the right balance is important to make sure your body can function at its best and reduce the risk of health issues. In today’s world, we are always trying to find the optimal numbers for various aspects of our bodies and our lives, such as weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Among these numbers, there’s one that often gets overlooked: How much sleep do you need?

The Perfect Amount of Sleep

It’s a common belief that eight hours of sleep per night is optimal, but research shows that may not be the case. A 2010 study published in the journal Sleep found that seven hours of sleep is actually the ideal amount for maintaining good health. According to Dr. Najib Ayas of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, those who sleep more or less than seven hours per night are at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This means that even people who are getting the standard eight hours of sleep every night could unknowingly be increasing their risk for heart problems.

False Hope: Catching Up on Sleep

Another myth surrounding sleep is the idea that you can catch up on lost sleep over the weekend after a week of not getting enough rest. In reality, sleep experts say that sleeping more than eight hours is unhealthy and won’t make up for a sleep-deprived work week. Sleep is not cumulative, so you need seven hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to keep your body healthy. Broken-up or stacked sleep can lead to headaches, stiff joints, muscle aches, and even dizziness. Furthermore, sleeping longer than necessary can also raise your risk of cardiovascular issues.

Sleep Deprivation’s Dangerous Effects

Poor sleep doesn’t just put you at risk for cardiovascular disease. Getting only six hours or less of sleep per night is linked to diabetes and obesity. One study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) showed that lack of sleep increases hunger by activating the brain’s appetite-control center. Another study by the Mayo Clinic found that if you sleep about 80 minutes less than normal, you’re at risk for consuming about 550 more calories the next day. Hormones leptin and ghrelin are thought to be responsible for these effects.

“Sleep deprivation is a growing problem, with 28 percent of adults now reporting that they get six or fewer hours of sleep per night,” says Dr. Virend Somers, professor at Mayo Clinic and lead author of the study.

Achieving Healthy Sleep Habits

Whether you suffer from insomnia, sleep apnea, or simply have a busy schedule, it’s essential that you prioritize getting seven hours of sleep each night. Maintaining a regular sleep routine each night will contribute to a healthier lifestyle. Follow these tips to establish good sleep habits and potentially avoid heart disease, diabetes, and obesity:

  • Manage your time efficiently during the day to avoid working late into the evening.
  • Make a list at the end of the workday of tasks to complete the following day, so you don’t worry about them while trying to fall asleep.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages after 6 p.m. to prevent sleeplessness.
  • Limit fluid intake after 8 p.m. if you have a weak or overactive bladder.
  • Refrain from alcohol at night, as it disturbs crucial REM sleep.
  • Make your sleep environment as dark as possible by blocking incoming light with heavy curtains and dimming the light from electronic devices.
  • Set a sleep schedule with consistent bedtimes and wake-up times to help your body regulate your sleeping patterns.

Implementing these healthy sleep habits can lead to a longer, happier life without the dangerous risks associated with poor sleep. Your body and mind deserve the right balance to keep you performing at your best.