Is too much sleep harm­ful? After read­ing this ques­tion, many res­i­dents of mod­ern megac­i­ties will only sigh to them­selves — “Peo­ple have prob­lems … But I would like to get enough sleep at least once, I would prob­a­bly sleep for a week.” But it’s not about mak­ing up for the lack of sleep, but about the con­stant “over­sleep­ing”. Which some sci­en­tists talk about as a harm­ful, and even dan­ger­ous phe­nom­e­non. Whether so it, finds out Med­AboutMe.

Normal sleep duration

Normal sleep duration

This is one of those issues on which the opin­ions of sci­en­tists are very dif­fer­ent. Var­i­ous opin­ions are pre­sent­ed in the sci­en­tif­ic lit­er­a­ture, and each comes with a bun­dle of quite con­vinc­ing evi­dence.

The most com­mon opin­ion is that the norm for a healthy adult is a dai­ly (or rather, night­ly) sleep of 7–8 hours. And less than 7 hours of sleep is harm­ful, since the lack of night sleep leads to dis­rup­tion of cir­ca­di­an rhythms, meta­bol­ic process­es, imbal­ance in the ratio of the hor­mones of hunger and sati­ety — ghre­lin and lep­tin, the devel­op­ment of insulin resis­tance and, in the long term, type 2 dia­betes mel­li­tus, obe­si­ty, ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis, etc. And all this has real­ly con­vinc­ing, sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly reli­able evi­dence obtained by many sci­en­tists from dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

There is also plen­ty of evi­dence that “night vig­ils” fol­lowed by sleep­ing dur­ing day­light hours have a neg­a­tive impact on health. This is due to a vio­la­tion of the pro­duc­tion of mela­tonin, which can be syn­the­sized in the pineal gland only in the dark dur­ing sleep. This sub­stance reg­u­lates cir­ca­di­an rhythms, blood pres­sure, affects blood sug­ar lev­els. Mela­tonin also inhibits the growth of melanoma tumor cells.

In 2008, Israeli sci­en­tists pub­lished an arti­cle on the results of a 10-year study, the result of which shows that women who sleep even in dim light are 22% more sus­cep­ti­ble to breast can­cer. Scan­di­na­vian sci­en­tists also found a high­er sus­cep­ti­bil­i­ty to this type of can­cer, exam­in­ing nurs­es who work on shift sched­ules and because of this often sleep in the day­time after night shifts.

Sleep “at the wrong time” also affects the pro­duc­tion of cor­ti­sol, the stress hor­mone. Nor­mal­ly, this hor­mone is pro­duced in the light, dur­ing wake­ful­ness, pro­vid­ing the body with a high­er lev­el of activ­i­ty and ener­gy, and at night dur­ing sleep, its lev­el decreas­es. If you sleep at ran­dom, these process­es go astray. Ele­vat­ed lev­els of cor­ti­sol increase the body’s sus­cep­ti­bil­i­ty to var­i­ous dis­eases and inflam­ma­tion, increase cell resis­tance to insulin, which increas­es the risk of devel­op­ing type 2 dia­betes.

It would seem that with the lack of night sleep, every­thing is clear. But not all sci­en­tists agree with this. There are those who claim that it is nat­ur­al for a per­son to just sleep “in sev­er­al steps”, for 2–4 hours. How­ev­er, con­vinc­ing evi­dence of this the­o­ry has not yet been pre­sent­ed.

Sleep more than 8 hours

Sleep more than 8 hours

In recent years, there have been reports that long sleep is no less harm­ful than lack of sleep. Because a sig­nif­i­cant asso­ci­a­tion has been found between sleep­ing more than 9 hours and a high­er rate of death from car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease. “The trou­ble came from where they didn’t expect,” that’s what they call it, right? And lit­tle sleep is harm­ful, and now it’s scary to over­sleep?

But here’s what the experts have to say about it.

Expert com­ment

Eliz­a­beth Cler­man, Neu­rol­o­gist-Som­nol­o­gist

We have doubts about the cor­rect­ness of the con­clu­sions made on the basis of the iden­ti­fied asso­ci­a­tion between pro­longed sleep and the risk of devel­op­ing car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­eases. The fact is that the rela­tion­ship can be reversed: it is not pro­longed sleep that caus­es dis­eases, but a per­son sleeps more because he is unhealthy. Which brings us to the old “chick­en or egg” prob­lem with no solu­tion.

In addi­tion, many stud­ies do not take into account fac­tors that exist­ed before the start of the exper­i­ment: for exam­ple, the par­tic­i­pants’ long-term lack of sleep, their use of var­i­ous med­ica­tions that can affect sleep and its dura­tion, alco­hol or oth­er psy­choac­tive sub­stances.

We think that sleep by itself, even longer than usu­al, can­not harm the body. But if there are caus­es that cause drowsi­ness, then the doc­tor’s atten­tion should be paid more to them than to the actu­al dura­tion of sleep, which can only be a symp­tom.

A group of sci­en­tists, which includ­ed Dr. Eliz­a­beth Cler­man, con­duct­ed an exper­i­ment with healthy young peo­ple who were asked to sleep “as much as they like.” After a slight­ly longer night’s sleep (some­times even more than 12 hours) for the first few days, all par­tic­i­pants soon devel­oped a nat­ur­al sleep dura­tion of about 8.5 hours. They sim­ply could not sleep any­more and did not want to. And if they fell asleep again, then the state of health wors­ened: there was a feel­ing of weak­ness, a headache. True, these phe­nom­e­na quick­ly passed after the return to nor­mal day­time activ­i­ties.

Expert com­ment

William Scott Kill­go­re, psy­chol­o­gist, psy­chi­a­trist

There are peo­ple in the human pop­u­la­tion for whom longer sleep is a nat­ur­al need of the body. Among men, such “long-sleep­ing” about 2%, among women — about 5%. For every­one else, 7–9 hours of sleep is enough, and for teenagers — more, for old­er peo­ple — less. Chil­dren sleep the most, and this is com­plete­ly nat­ur­al, because in a dream they process the infor­ma­tion received dur­ing wake­ful­ness, which babies learn in large quan­ti­ties.

Indeed, there are sta­tis­tics show­ing that the life expectan­cy of “long-sleep­ers” is some­what low­er on aver­age. But the rea­sons for this have not yet been iden­ti­fied, in any case, there are no reli­able, con­vinc­ing expla­na­tions for this phe­nom­e­non.

Per­haps the dura­tion of sleep may be affect­ed by stress or depres­sion. In my prac­tice, there were cas­es when the need for longer sleep was asso­ci­at­ed with stress­ful pres­sure, oppres­sion of prob­lems that a per­son did not want or could not solve. The dream was for him a way to “escape from real­i­ty”, to “hide low”. This is also a fair­ly nat­ur­al reac­tion of the body to stress, although peo­ple are more like­ly to have anoth­er form of response, usu­al­ly expressed in the for­mu­la “fight or flight.”

Anx­i­ety can be caused by a sit­u­a­tion when a per­son sud­den­ly began to need more sleep, this can real­ly indi­cate cer­tain vio­la­tions. If a man or woman has always slept more than oth­ers, then per­haps they sim­ply belong to the “long sleep­ers”.

How to get enough sleep at night?

How to get enough sleep at night?

Since most of today’s peo­ple still do not have enough sleep, the main prob­lem is seen in get­ting a good night’s sleep for the usu­al 7–8 hours.

Here’s what you need for this:

  • Do not dine too late and too much, avoid ton­ic drinks in the evening.
  • Sleep in a well-ven­ti­lat­ed room in com­plete dark­ness. It is even advis­able to remove lumi­nous alarm clocks, do not leave night­lights lit, use thick cur­tains that do not let in the light of the moon or street lamps.
  • Put your smart­phone and lap­top away no lat­er than 30 min­utes before bed­time. Always turn off the com­put­er at night if it is installed near the bed.
  • Take a warm bath or warm short show­er before bed.
  • Orga­nize your­self a com­fort­able bed with a good mat­tress, the right pil­low and the most appro­pri­ate blan­ket. Some, for exam­ple, are much more com­fort­able sleep­ing under a heavy blan­ket, oth­ers pre­fer a light one, so you need to try.

If 7–8 hours is def­i­nite­ly not enough, try “two-phase sleep”: set an alarm an hour before the desired wake-up time. When he wakes you up, drink some water and lie down again for an hour. After the first phase of sound deep sleep, the sec­ond phase will be light. Some som­nol­o­gists claim that this helps to get bet­ter sleep in the same amount of time.

You can read more tips in the arti­cle “How to orga­nize a sound and healthy sleep.”

От Yraa

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