There are few sweeter joys than waking up, realizing it's your day off, and putting your head back on the pillow for a few more hours. Unfortunately, a new study has chucked cold water all over this snoozy treat, just like a buzzing alarm clock and a phone call from your boss saying you’re an hour late to work.
A global study led by Keele University has suggested that people who regularly enjoy sleeping in could be at an increased risk of some serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. It even increases the risk of premature death.
As reported in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers drew on 74 different studies, involving a total of 3 million people, looking at sleeping patterns and health problems. This meta-analysis found that regularly sleeping over 10 hours is linked to a 30 percent increased risk in dying compared to seven hours sleep. It showed a 56 percent increased risk of dying from a stroke, a 49 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease-related mortality, and a 44 percent increase in coronary heart disease.
There's a fair amount of publicity about how a lack of sleep can lead to an array of health problems. However, this study suggests that getting too much sleep is actually worse than not getting enough sleep.
“This research began because we were interested to know if it was more harmful to sleep below or beyond the recommended sleep duration of seven to eight hours” lead researcher Dr Chun Shing Kwok, a Clinical Lecturer in Cardiology at Keele University, explained in a statement.
“We wanted to know how incremental deviation from recommended sleep duration altered risk of mortality and cardiovascular risk."
There are a few things to consider with these findings. First up, the exact mechanism behind this link is not known. The issue of sleep and wider health is likely to be a thorny interconnected web of many lifestyle factors. For example, people who regularly oversleep could have other health conditions that cause that, which in turn increases their cardiovascular risk. Equally, sleeping in once every week is not likely to cause any profound damage to your health.
Nevertheless, this is not the first study to highlight the connection between sleeping too much and cardiovascular problems.
In sum, the researchers argue you should aim to regularly sleep for seven or eight hours. However, they concede that this is not an easy feat in the 21st-century world of stressful jobs, night shifts, and flashing laptop screens.
“Sleep affects everyone. The amount and quality of our sleep is complex,” Dr Kwok added. “There are cultural, social, psychological, behavioral, pathophysiological and environmental influences on our sleep such as the need to care for children or family members, irregular working shift patterns, physical or mental illness, and the 24-hour availability of commodities in modern society.”
Still, the odd weekend lie-in should be fine.