According to a new study conducted at the Stress Research Institute, at Stockholm University, and the Karolinska Institute, people under the age of 65 getting only five hours of sleep a night or less have a higher risk of mortality than those getting a good six or seven hours of shut-eye.
Factors such as gender, body mass index (BMI), smoking, physical activity and shift work were taken into account, and results showed light sleepers who got less than five hours’ kip, seven days a week, had a whopping 65% higher mortality rate than those getting six or seven hours’ sleep every night.
Morbid stuff. But the news isn't all bad for light sleepers – the study revealed they could counteract this increased risk by indulging in a lie-in at the weekends. The study showed a longer doze (eight hours or more) on your two days off, could reduce your mortality rate by compensating for the sleep you've missed out on during the week.
Be warned, however, as this isn’t an excuse to lie-in every day. The study also showed that those who slept for eight hours or more every day were found to have a 25% higher mortality rate compared with those who kept to six or seven hours a day. The message is clear: sleep for six hours on a regular basis, and you could outlive everyone.
The study, published in the Journal of Sleep Research, is based on data from more than 38,000 adults. The information was collected during a lifestyle and medical survey in Sweden in 1997; the participants were then monitored for up to 13 years and their fate recorded using the national death register.
Torbjörn Åkerstedt, one of the study's authors, said researchers had previously studied sleep duration and mortality, but decided to focus more specifically on sleep during the week, as they expected there “might be some modification if you included weekend sleep, or day-off sleep”. Interestingly, the links between sleep patterns and mortality disappeared for those aged 65 or older. Åkerstedt said this could be because older people got the sleep they needed.
“Sleep duration is important for longevity,” concluded Åkerstedt. So, if you find yourself sleeping five hours or less a night, then the National Sleep Foundation has a list of the top five things you can try to get those precious extra hours’ sleep…
1. Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual: Winding down before bed in a low-lit room can help separate your sleep time from activities that cause excitement or stress, which make it more difficult to unwind or fall asleep. Try a spot of meditation, or even just some deep breaths.
2. Avoid napping: If you have trouble sleeping, the worst thing you can do is take an afternoon nap. Power napping might help you through the day, but come night-time you’ll be wide awake. Steer clear of even the smallest of catnaps if you want a good nights’ sleep.
3. Exercise daily: Exercise is good for everything, including sleep. Vigorous exercise is best, but even a light jog is better than nothing. Do it at any time of the day – but not at the expense of your sleeping pattern, obviously.
4. Re-evaluate your room: Give your bedroom the feng shui treatment. Design the layout of your room to support the conditions you need for a good sleep. Keep it cool – around 60-67 degrees – and free from noise and light. Try blackout curtains, eye masks, ear plugs, ‘white noise’ machines, humidifiers and fans. And of course, kick that snoring partner into the spare room.
5. Sleep on something comfortable: Make sure your mattress is supportive. If you’ve had your mattress and pillows for over ten years, it’s time to invest in new ones. Comfortable pillows are particularly important – if you often have a sore neck in the mornings, limit it to one per person.
For more information on a better night’s sleep, visit SleepFoundation.org