Sleeping well could save your life


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May 19, 2010
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que sera sera
NOTHING leaves you more refreshed and full of energy than a good night’s sleep. However there is now mounting evidence that getting the right amount of rest can do much more than perk you up in the morning.

A succession of recent studies has highlighted the fact that getting the right amount of sleep is crucial for a long and healthy life.

Without it the body is more likely to fall victim to everything from colds and sniffles to potentially fatal conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia. In the latest studies a team of British and Italian researchers found regularly getting fewer than six hours sleep a night could lead to an early grave.

Those sleeping less than six hours were 12 per cent more likely to die prematurely than those sleeping between six and eight hours a night.

Most experts believe that between six and eight hours is the right amount for an adult. Teenagers need about nine hours a night and young babies up to 16 hours a day.

Some researchers believe lack of sleep may be linked to thousands of deaths every year in the UK. In many cases, this is not because being awake for too long is itself the cause of ill health. Those who are sleep deprived often have poor diets, don’t get enough exercise and may be constantly stressed.

This means their bodies are exposed to damage caused by raised cholesterol, high blood pressure and increased levels of stress hormones.

Some studies suggest that average sleep times in the UK are falling, largely because of longer working hours, and it’s not just too little sleep that is harmful.

Lying in bed for more than eight or nine hours every night is also now considered a “marker” for ill health.

It could signal depression or an undiagnosed medical condition such as diabetes. So what are the main dangers to your health from not getting enough sleep?

Heart disease

Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher claimed to get by on five hours a night but for most people this amount of sleep could present a serious hazard to the heart.

Doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, US, studied 122,000 nurses to see how their sleeping patterns affected their health. The results showed sleeping five hours a night or less was linked to a higher risk of coronary heart disease. Sleep deprivation increases blood pressure and affects hormone and blood sugar levels which could have an impact on the heart.

The study also showed that women who slept for nine hours or more were also at higher risk.

Breast cancer

Burning the candle at both ends can also increase a woman’s chances of suffering breast cancer.

A Japanese study, which tracked almost 24,000 women over eight years, showed those regularly sleeping fewer than six hours a night raised their risk of a tumour by more than 60 per cent. Scientists believe sleep disruption interferes with production of a vital hormone called melatonin which could play an important role in protecting against cancer. Melatonin is produced by the brain during sleep to regulate the body’s internal clock.

It plays a key role in preventing tumours by suppressing the amount of oestrogen released. Oestrogen is known to be a factor in the development of breast cancer.

Prostate cancer

It’s not just women who might benefit from a good night’s sleep.

Another Japanese study showed men who slumber for an average nine hours a night may be half as likely to develop prostate cancer as those who get by on less sleep.

One reason could be that an adequate amount of sleep controls inflammation in the body. Tests at the University of California in Los Angeles suggest just one late night could be enough to trigger cellular changes that lead to inflammation in blood vessels throughout the body, including the prostate.


Parents may curse teenagers who laze in bed for hours and yet some evidence suggests those lie-ins could be just what they need to ward off obesity.

Experts at the Chinese University of Hong Kong studied 5,000 children aged five to 15 and found those who slept in at weekends were much less likely to have weight problems. They believe the weekend snooze is crucial for school-age children to catch up on missed sleep.

It can also help to regulate calorie intake by reducing daytime snacking.


If you keep getting colds, lack of sleep could be a factor. Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in the US found light sleepers getting fewer than seven hours a night were three times more likely to suffer colds as those snoozing eight hours or more.

It is thought that lack of sleep impairs the immune system and the body’s ability to fight off the viruses that cause colds and flu.

The study, involving 153 healthy men and women with an average age of 37, also found the quality of sleep was important.

Volunteers who spent less than 92 per cent of their time in bed asleep were five-and-a-half times more likely to become ill than those who were asleep for at least 98 per cent of their time in bed.


The wrong amount of sleep also increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, the form of the disease which usually comes on later in life and is often associated with poor diet and lack of exercise. Boston University scientists found adults averaging five hours or less a night were twice as likely to develop the condition as those sleeping seven to eight hours.

Sleeping nine hours or more a night also triggered the first signs of diabetes.


Lying in bed too long might also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Experts at the University Hospital of Madrid in Spain asked 3,286 men and women aged 65 or over how many hours sleep they averaged over a 24-hour period.

The volunteers were then tracked for more than three years, during which time 140 went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.

The results showed that the biggest increase in risk was among those averaging more than eight or nine hours a day, either by sleeping late in the mornings or napping in the afternoons.

Researchers said: “Long sleep may be an early symptom of dementia or it could lead to an increased risk of it. However the mechanisms are not readily explainable.”

Teenage depression

Going to bed earlier and getting enough sleep can protect teenagers against depression. Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center in New York tracked 15,500 youngsters aged between 12 and 18 and found those who went to bed after midnight were 24 per cent more likely to suffer from depression than those turning in before 10pm.

Teenagers who slept fewer than five hours a night also had a 71 per cent higher risk of depression than those who slept eight hours.

Lack of sleep may affect emotional brain responses and hinder the ability to cope with stress. - Home of the Daily and Sunday Express | Health :: Sleeping well could save your life


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Nov 16, 2004
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BBC iPlayer - 10 Things You Need to Know About Sleep

This was on the other night and it was very interesting and some great tips on how to get a good kip, beat jet lag etc. well worth a watch.

Seen that a few times mate. Suprising how alcohol effects your sleep when people think it helps. I would say that eating late at night is a no-no becasue it make you feel tired the next day. While you are asleep, your digestive system will still be curning and working while it should be resting like the rest of you. It's like going to sleep on a treadmill.

For me, to get the best sleep it has to be to get into a steady meditation regeime. Amazing quality of deep REM sleep and vivid dreams, and as a by product sometimes when I am meditating, dreams I had days, weeks, or even years ago just pop into my head and I can remember most of what went on...


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Mar 26, 2006
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'It was an open secret' - Bill McNeil
never tried meditation m8

however i feel the more active i am the better sleep pattern i have. if i got through periods of innactivity for what ever reason i tend to wake up at all hours. as soon as i go back to the gym or that bang 1st night out like a baby lol


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Dec 22, 2005
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you be surprised how many people drink excessively every night just to get to sleep

they cant sleep due to stress and worry

i find walking a great way of helping relax before going to bed