Can Too Much Sleep Be Harmful?

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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 Healthy­in­fo.

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.”

By Yraa

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