The study found that people who sleep for more than 10 hours a night do so because they are really deprived of quality sleep.
It’s the classic stereotype: a student who should be in class lies snoring on a pillow; the clock strikes twelve o’clock noon and somewhere far away, a bell tolls. After looking at a recent Harvard Medical School study, however, you may want to rethink the idea of sleeping in. Although we’re all aware of the negative consequences of a lack of sleep, it now appears that getting too much sleep is not a good thing either.
The Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study has discovered why many of us who sleep in feel just as bad or worse than when we get up early. The study found that people who sleep for more than 10 hours a night do so because they are really deprived of quality sleep. That’s right. The key to feeling rested and alert is not really about how much sleep you get, but about getting an average amount of quality sleep.
What would average be in terms of sufficient hours of sleep? About 7, according to researchers. Study leader Elizabeth Devore states: “Our findings suggest that getting an ‘average’ amount of sleep, seven hours per day, may help maintain memory in later life and that clinical interventions based on sleep therapy should be examined for the prevention of [mental] impairment.”
Similarities Between Too Much and Too Little Sleep
The study looked at those who slept five hours or less per night and those who slept for nine hours or more per night, and observed worse performance on brain testing compared with those who got seven to eight hours of sleep a night. The results, published online in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, seems to indicate that oversleepers share similarities with undersleepers when it comes to negative impact on brain functioning.
Getting Quality Sleep
To improve the quality of your sleep, try these suggestions:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Our bodies respond well to a predictable schedule.
- If you live in an area with a lot of light pollution, or if you leave lights on at night, try to make your bedroom as dark as possible. Even weak sources of light can interfere with quality sleep.
- Do something relaxing, such as reading, before bedtime. Do not use a computer or watch TV because the light from the screen can act as a stimulant. Listen to soft music or take a warm bath.
- Get enough exercise each day. It may seem obvious, but expending energy through physical exertion during the day can help you feel ready to sleep when you go to bed. Exercise can also help reduce stress and anxiety which may get in the way of a good night’s sleep.
- Don’t eat meals late at night. As well, avoid caffine or alcoholic drinks before going to bed.
- Avoid taking long naps during the day, and…don’t sleep in too long in the morning!