The importance of sleep has been known for eons.   A lack of proper sleep over time can have deleterious effects on many body systems.  Researchers have shown that people who are sleep deprived have a higher incidence of obesity, insulin resistance (early diabetes) and high blood pressure.

Recently, Italian researchers evaluated sleep studies that included over 400,000 subjects to understand the relationship between sleep and heart disease.  They found that average sleep less than 5 hours over a three-year period significantly increased the risk of developing heart disease, stroke and death.

But too much sleep was found to be dangerous as well.  The recent study actually showed that fatigue is the least concern for people who sleep longer than 9 hours on average.  The risk of heart disease and stroke also rose significantly in people who slept for longer duration.

Sleep researchers say that the required amount of sleep varies person to person, but is generally between 5-8 hours in a 24-hour period.   Several things influence the amount of sleep you need.  With age, one requires less sleep.  A 70 year old, for example,  may require only 5 hours of sleep, whereas an infant can sleep up to 16 hours!  The amount of sleep you require can also change with level of activity, fitness, current health status and amount of sleep on the previous day.

As it turns out, the most restorative sleep happens in the first 1-2 hours of sleep. This may be why ‘power naps’ seem to refresh.

Many things aside from a poor sleep schedule contribute to sleep problems, including heart disease, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, anxiety, prostate disease and thyroid problems.

** Talk to your doctor about persistent sleep problems because they can be a sign of other conditions and if unchecked can lead to serious problems down the line.

Here’s to Mastering Your Health!