Too much sleep may shorten your lifespan,
February 15, 2002 7:01 AM   Subscribe

Too much sleep may shorten your lifespan, according to this MSNBC article. Assuming that this data is correct, I'd still rather deal with less time alive (but fully alert) vs. a prolonged life of grogginess. (via Fark)
posted by sigma7 (25 comments total)
"The acid test for enough sleep is whether you are sleepy or alert throughout the day. "

posted by Spoon at 7:20 AM on February 15, 2002

"Those who slept 8 hours a night were 12 percent more likely to die within six years than those who got 6½ to 7½ hours of sleep. The increased risk was more than 15 percent for those who reported getting more than 8½ hours or less than about 4 hours nightly. The participants ranged in age from 30 to 102."

excuse me if i'm totally off here, but whenever your study group contains people up to 102 years old, subjects are going to die from old age within your study period. therefore, this study is kind of silly. yeah, a 102 subject might not live for another 6 years. also, i do believe that older folks sleep longer than younger folks, further scewing the data. so, a statistically long sleeper (who happens to be very very old) is going to die sooner than a statistically short sleeper.
posted by mich9139 at 7:21 AM on February 15, 2002

Not to mention that the article points out the correlational nature of the study. People with pre-existing medical complications or poor health may sleep more producing the effect.

This isn't even preliminary research.
posted by srboisvert at 7:28 AM on February 15, 2002

I get about 8hrs a day but its broken up into 2 or 3 chunks.. evening, afternoon and a few cat naps here and there.
posted by stbalbach at 7:49 AM on February 15, 2002

Come back next week, when someone publishes a study with the exact opposite conclusion.
posted by RavinDave at 7:54 AM on February 15, 2002

I think it's far more important to cater your schedule to your personal needs. My wife is out of sorts if she doesn't get at least 8-9 hours a night - subsequently, she's hitting the hay by nine or so. But I'm a veg if I get more than 5-6 hours or so, so I'm typically up until 1, 1:30. My old chem prof, a legendary goofball, reportedly slept only 1-2 hours a night, and was disturbingly alert. Being honest with yourself about your needs, not trying to be a super[wo]man, and taking care to make sure that you get what you need are far better than just assuming that everyone needs 8 hours, which is (as RavinDave eloquently observed) just crap.
posted by UncleFes at 8:36 AM on February 15, 2002

Supportive material for other long-sleepers:
Arianna Huffington is on your side. The National Sleep Foundation says 25% of women suffer from clinically significant daytime sleepiness. An Atlantic article on American attitudes toward sleep. A study on the biochemical changes induced by sleep dep.
posted by sheauga at 8:39 AM on February 15, 2002

mich9139 -- I think you've got it backwards -- increased age doesn't mean an increased need for sleep... actually older people tend to sleep less at night (though they make up for it by napping), probably because the assorted aches and pains that go with aging keep waking you up.

Another possibility is that my grandpa was just a freak who liked getting up at 5 every morning.

As for subjects dying during the study -- the article doesn't go into it, but i'd guess they'd compensate for this by using actuarial tables: compare the average death rate for people of a particular age, with the rate of those the same age in your study who are light sleepers, and with those who sleep a lot, and see whether you get different results.

They've got enough data -- 1.1 million subjects -- that this would probably work. The real problem is that their data is flawed, since it depends on the subjects' recollections, which are almost certainly unreliable.
posted by ook at 8:42 AM on February 15, 2002

Clinically significant daytime sleepiness?

Does sleeping through 1/3 of my lectures at school count?

Does it still count if I either have been explained the material about a dozen times before or don't understand it at all?

And here I was thinking that doing 4 hours each night and then catching up with 12 hours on saturday morning was a safe practice :)

(Yeah, I know, the study is so screwed up you can't draw any conclusions.)
posted by azazello at 9:06 AM on February 15, 2002

Seeing that these results fly in the face of all previous sleep research, I will take them with a grain of salt and await further studies.
posted by rushmc at 9:09 AM on February 15, 2002

I get about 8hrs a day but its broken up into 2 or 3 chunks.. evening, afternoon and a few cat naps here and there.

Me too, stbalbach. I sleep whenever I'm sleepy and wake up whenever I do, generally three hours a time, twice a day. Sometimes longer, sometimes less. Counting doesn't come into it and the times of day and night vary widely.
My wife, on the other hand, sleeps an extra three hours at night(I get up and log on to MetaFilter...)and falls in with me on my daytime sleep, making about nine. Same goes with eating and everything else - it's good to be a savage. It's one of the few advantages of not having a proper job.

With sleep, YMMV makes absolute sense. I had insomnia all my life, even went to a specialist in London, took every possible drug, but this way, accidentally discovered since I married(for the obvious reasons) I just sleep like a baby, with no drugs, apart from the obligatory nightcap and a quick spell on
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:18 AM on February 15, 2002

What does this mean for people like me who just biologically need a lot of sleep? I'm dead tired after waking up from 8 hours of sound sleep. I wouldn't even get up in the morning if it weren't for my daily routine. When left to my own devices, I can easily sleep 12 hours. I guess it's really not that big of a deal right now though, and my patterns will change as I get older. Anywho, I won't lose sleep over it.
posted by tomorama at 10:35 AM on February 15, 2002

It makes perfect sense to me as a correlative not causal finding. That is, people who need less sleep may well be stronger, more energetic, heartier types, who fight off infections and diseases more ably, while those who need more sleep may be more sickly in general.

I sleep way too much. Don't know if it's mood, medication, or genetics, but I need eight hours, and if I don't set an alarm, I often won't wake up for 10 or 12. Though when I'm in the country I don't have that problem so much... of course, I'm only "in the country" on vacations.
posted by mdn at 10:35 AM on February 15, 2002

As mdn said, this makes a lot more sense as a correlation with the causation going the opposite direction from what the article implies - better health creating less of a need for sleep. Or possibly their data is just screwed up. Every previous study I've seen indicates the exact opposite - that as a society we're suffering from sleep deprivation which is hurting us in the health department. My personal experience backs this up. I used to short myself on sleep all the time. I got sick a lot & was lucky I didn't kill anyone in a car wreck. (I discovered for myself that driving while sleep-deprived is as bad as driving drunk.) These days I average 8 hours a night & do okay, but I'm healthiest & happiest when I can maintain an average of 9-9&1/2 hours per night. (It's hard to manage that, though.)

mdn - You may not be sleeping "too much". From what I've read, people used to average 10+ hours of sleep per night before the advent of electric lighting. Individual needs vary due to genetics, but you might very well need 9-10 hours per night for optimal functioning.
posted by tdismukes at 11:12 AM on February 15, 2002

I've found that when I stop eating refined carbohydrates, my sleep needs fall from 8+ hours per night to 5-6 (and I can be functional on as little as three for several days in a row).
posted by kindall at 11:17 AM on February 15, 2002

Hmm...I always thought sleeping was a waste of time, but I require like 8 hours or I am cranky. Maybe I will toss the refined carbos. Is that white bread and all that?
posted by adampsyche at 11:25 AM on February 15, 2002

kindall: I eat almost no carbohydrates of any kind, and my sleep time has also significantly decreased. There is a correlation between refined carbs, which make you insulin level go sky high, and sleepiness.

I used to sleep 11 hours a day, and always felt bad afterward. I finally went to the doctor, who ordered a sleep study, where I slept, plastered with wires and observed by an infrared camera. The diagnosis: sleep apnea. I now use a cpap machine, and my sleep is much more rewarding, and I need less of it. If you sleep too much like I did, it may mean there is something else wrong. Too much sleep (or too little) is also a major symptom of clinical depression, so look into it if you have problems.

Sometimes I still like to sleep 11 hours, but just because I like sleeping. I'm one of those people who has no trouble falling asleep until I lie down to go to sleep at night. Then, insomnia. But if it's on the couch, or at a lecture, or on the train... Blink! I'm unconscious. I've always wondered why purposely going to bed at night makes sleep so difficult.

This study is bunk, though.
posted by evanizer at 11:37 AM on February 15, 2002

I've been trying to sleep less too, and I found that light does indeed have a lot to do with it. Before I go to sleep I open my blinds so the sun will shine into my room in the morning, and so far I've been waking up easier and easier (though still tired). I still sleep a lot more than 8 hours though.

Another interesting thing: I only sleep excessively at home. If I'm anywhere besides my own bed in my own house, I'll always been the first person to wake up. I've gone away with friends, partied all night long, went to bed at 3am and and woken up a few hours later at 8 and started making breakfast. I've stayed over in other peoples' dorms and woken up refreshed at 6am.
posted by tomorama at 12:50 PM on February 15, 2002

If less sleep=long life/more sleep=short life the case, it's very likely that I am immortal. Not by choice of course.
posted by fuq at 3:01 PM on February 15, 2002

For months now I've been sleeping for an average of six hours a night. I feel tired much of the time and I know I'm not getting enough sleep. But -- I don't have any more time to sleep. Because of my commute to work, the working part of the day take thirteen hours. Add six hours it means I only have five hours in the day to myself anyway -- so if I get any more sleep I won't have any more waking time. And in the society we live in now I know this is an issue everyone is experiencing.

I have a question though. How come in films characters will stay up taking until late into the night yet still get up at six the following morning and go jogging. Does this happen in real American life and if so I do you all do it?
posted by feelinglistless at 3:38 PM on February 15, 2002

I have been getting less sleep lately (due to feelinglistless's problem...), and I am becoming a real moron who can't remember anything. I would give anything to be one of those people who can survive and thrive on very little sleep, but I am not. I have been finding myself drooling on the subway lately, and it isn't a pleasant experience. I can sleep anywhere, anytime. I need about 10 hours of sleep. Eight doesn't work for me. I also feel that life with an alarm clock is no life at all. Waking up to buzzing makes me want to find a gun and shoot myself between the eyeballs.
posted by goneill at 3:50 PM on February 15, 2002

I'm screwed.
posted by aaronshaf at 4:10 PM on February 15, 2002

mdn - You may not be sleeping "too much". From what I've read, people used to average 10+ hours of sleep per night before the advent of electric lighting. Individual needs vary due to genetics, but you might very well need 9-10 hours per night for optimal functioning.

Yeah, I just feel like i have so little time as it is that I really dislike the idea of spending half of the day unconscious. But of course, if I sleep for 8 hours and spend the better part of 16 unproductively, sitting around in my underwear vaguely reading yesterday's paper & snacking (or whatever) that's certainly no better than sleeping for 12 and getting out of the house for 12.

Interesting about the electric lighting, though people did have candles and kerosene lamps and stuff, so it's not like sunset meant good night.

I think light has a major effect on me too. I am currently living in an apt with very little light and am planning to move out shortly, for that reason.
posted by mdn at 9:51 PM on February 15, 2002

Personal anecdote - After a 1-2 week adjustment period, I found my energy levels much more dependable throughout the day once I knocked all sources of caffeine out of my life beyond the occasional chocolate indulgence. No more post lunch crash, no war with the alarm clock in the morning (though I'm still no morning person), and the flexibility to go for looong nights when circumstances call for it.

These days caffeine is so alien to me that if I get loopy on rum and Cokes I'm wired on the caffeine hours after the alcohol buzz has subsided.
posted by NortonDC at 8:54 AM on February 16, 2002

If you sleep longer, you're up for less time, hence, you live less. What a no-brainer :-)

Truly though, this test doesn't seem too great. I'm going to try ignoring it, I usually sleep 10 hours a night, but at least 12-16 once a week or so. My record is 20 all in one go ;-) Heck, the way I'm going, I should be ready to die within a few weeks.
posted by wackybrit at 12:19 PM on February 16, 2002

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