The Goldilocks principle

In the quest for good health, moderation is usually the name of the game. And sleep is no exception.

Obviously, this is one case where less isn’t more. But more isn’t always better, either. In fact, it can be just as harmful.

A recent study from the CDC looked at close to 55,000 adults over the age of 45. Surveys showed that just about one third reported being short sleepers. (Meaning they clocked in six hours or fewer of shut eye every night.)

Nearly 65 percent reported optimal sleep, at seven to nine hours nightly. Just over 4 percent, meanwhile, were long sleepers, reporting 10 hours of sleep or more during a 24 hour period.

As it turns out, sleep habits on either end of the spectrum were equally dangerous. Results revealed a bell curve of risk where obesity, mental health, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes were concerned. And subjects who slept too little or too much faced the same level of hazard in terms of chronic disease.

Future studies are necessary to identify how weight and mental health might influence this association. But regardless, the message here is clear.

Stick with seven to nine hours of sleep nightly, and you’ll be getting it “just right.”

“Sleep Duration and Chronic Diseases among US Adults Age 45 Years and Older: Evidence From the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.” Sleep. 2013 Oct 1;36(10):1421-7. doi: 10.5665/sleep.3028.