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Do this, not that: tips for healthy living and feeling better

The school year is winding down and the hurricane of finals is kicking into high gear. The one thing in our lives that continues to take hits during such high pressure times is sleep.

Sleeping in or oversleeping, though no matter how satisfying it sounds, can lead to serious health risks. Think again before you decide to hit the snooze button (or ignore it all together!). (Source: Flickr)

Finding the right balance for sleep is difficult and an ongoing process: We either sleep too much or sleep too little. It’s always been said that the ideal length of sleep we should get per night is eight hours. A good night’s sleep is essential to producing good health. However, new and ongoing research suggests that sleeping too much is linked to a number of medical problems, including diabetes, heart disease and a shortened life span.

Research and reports show that sleep deprivation has the potential to double your chances of dying due to cardiovascular problems.

The same shows for oversleeping, which more than doubles the aforementioned risk. Health complications may also be born from oversleeping, which includes: diabetes, obesity, headaches, back pain, depression and an untimely death.

Professor Francesco Cappuccio from the Warwick Medical School in England along with researchers from the University of Warwick and the University College London gathered data on 10,308 people on this case.

The recommended amount of sleep for an adult person is eight hours per night, and sleeping less is risky. In Cappuccio’s research project, data regarding his subjects’ sleeping habits was collected between the years 1985-88 and 1992-93, then in 2004 when their mortality rates were checked.

Other factors like age, body mass index (BMI), smoking habits and physical condition were also considered. Results showed that the mortality rate of people whose length of sleeping decreased from eight hours a night in the years 1985-88 to five hours a night or less was 1.7 times higher than the mortality rate of the people who had continued sleeping the recommended eight hours per night. The most common cause of death in people who held these sleep routines was cardiovascular problems.

Additionally, the same researchers found that sleeping more than eight hours a night was equally as bad. The mortality rate doubled for subjects who increased the amount of time they spent sleeping from eight hours. The Warwick research project produced a connection between mortality rates and our sleeping habits, but has not defined the direct cause of death in oversleeping.

The amount of sleep necessary to produce good health will vary significantly over the course of your life. Depending on your age and the kind of activity you engage in, in addition to your health and lifestyle, your sleep will change.

Oversleeping, or hypersomnia, is a medical disorder. Hypersomnia causes people to feel consistent sleepiness throughout the day, which leads them to have several, intermittent naps and for unusually long periods of time (day or night). Those who suffer from hypersomnia also experience the same symptoms born from anxiety, low energy levels and poor memory due to their constant need for sleep.

Naturally, not everyone who oversleeps has a sleeping disorder (some people just love sleeping!). Other causes of oversleeping include the use of an external substance, such as alcohol and prescription medications. Medical conditions, such as depression, also cause people to oversleep

If you average more than seven or eight hours of sleep per night, see a doctor for a checkup to determine if you have a disorder or not.

If your oversleeping is caused by alcohol or certain prescription medications, cutting back on the use of these substances will help.

There’s nothing wrong with having a good cup of coffee or glass of wine every once in a while. The key with both alcohol and caffeine, however, is moderation and timing. Going easy on the fattier foods also contributes to better sleeping habits.

While a regular bedtime is recommended by most sleep professionals the regularity of a routine sleep pattern can be a very powerful behavioral sleep aid. It isn’t easy to maintain such rigid routines. No matter when you decide to go to go to bed, give yourself about an hour to wind down.

Gentle yoga and breathing exercises before bed are great. Indulging in some light reading or a little television will also help foster good sleeping habits, especially if you avoid anything too action filled or upsetting.

Your bedroom atmosphere counts for a lot in terms of getting you to bed faster and waking you earlier. The darker the bedroom, the better for maintaining crucial melatonin levels.

The light from your alarm clock needs to go, too. It is suggested to face it away from you, since when you can’t sleep all you do is look at the clock. As a result, you make calculations about how much sleep you’ll be getting (or won’t be getting) before you have to get up again causing more stress and wasting more time.

Similarly, if your oversleeping is caused by an underlying medical condition, treating this disorder may allow you to return to normal.