Sleeping less than five hours a night is serious tipping point for bad health

Sleeping less than five hours a night is serious tipping point for bad health

How much sleep do you get a night?

It’s important to know, as any less than five hours is a real tipping point for bad health.

Sleep is extremely important for us all, it helps rejuvenate, rest and restore both the body and mind – but quite why the exact minimum number of hours spent in the sack matters is unclear.

But it does.

Researchers say catching enough Zs may drastically reduce the chances of several health problems in the over-50s.

A PLoS Medicine study tracked the health and sleep of around 8,000 UK civil servants, asking each of them: ‘How many hours of sleep do you have on an average weeknight?’

Some also had their sleep monitored via a wrist-watch.

Each participant was then screened for chronic conditions, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease, over a period of 20 years.

The findings made for interesting reading.

  • Anyone aged around 50 who slept for five hours or less had a 30 per cent greater risk of multiple ailments than those who got seven hours of shut-eye.
  • Test subjects who got less sleep at 50 were at a higher risk of death during the study period, mainly linked to the increased risk of chronic disease.

This underlines the importance of achieving that ‘golden slumber’ night after night, which is why the researchers – from University College London and Paris Cité University – say experts usually recommend around seven or eight hours kip for optimal health.

Why do we need our sleep?
Scientists cannot agree for certain, but sleep clearly helps the brain process memories and is absolutely vital for concentration, mood, and metabolism.

Sleep is also an integral time for the brain to get rid of any waste.

How to get the best kip possible

  • Make sure you tire yourself out during the day by keeping busy and active – but make sure to take it easy towards bedtime.
  • Don’t take naps during the day.
  • It always pays to have an ingrained night-time routine, and to make sure your bedroom is nice and relaxing. This can be achieved by thick curtains or maybe blackout blinds, a comfortable room temperature and cosy bedding. Make sure not to use any electronic devices in bed.
  • Cut down or, better still, eliminate caffeine and alcohol in the evening.
  • It is impossible to force yourself to sleep. This is why experts advise the slumber-challenged to get up and do something relaxing for a while, such as reading a book. This will eventually make you feel sleepy.
  • If you work antisocial shifts, it can be a good idea to enjoy a short nap before your first shift in a run of nights to help with the transition. If you are coming off nights, try a little nap to see you through and then have an early night.

Surrey Sleep Centre director Prof Derk-Jan Dijk told the BBC: “This work reinforces that getting only short sleep is not good for us. Generally, it’s not healthy – although for some, it may be OK.

“The big question is why do some people sleep less? What is causing it and is there anything we can do about it? Sleep is a modifiable lifestyle factor to a certain extent.”

As many of us can attest, going without sleep for a long period of time can make you feel awful.

These days, GPs rarely prescribe sleeping pills as people can become too dependent on them, plus they can have a myriad of serious side-effects.

Fortunately, sleep problems can usually be successfully treated and support is available.

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