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Need 8 hours sleep? Study says, maybe not
by Yuki Ohashi, Science & Environment editor

Many people believe that they need at least eight hours of sleep every night in order to maintain a healthy mind and body. But new studies challenge that notion.

Researchers from University of California, San Diego, and the American Cancer Society found that people who sleep more than eight hours a night have a 15 percent greater chance of dying sooner than people who sleep seven hours a night, according to an ABC News article by Melinda T. Williams.

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The study documented sleep habits including the use of sleeping pills of more than a million men and women ranging in age from 30 to 102. Surprisingly, people who reported themselves insomniacs were not found to have any increased risk of mortality, but the use of sleeping pills was associated with an increased mortality of 25 percent.

“The average American sleeps six and a half hours a night,” said Daniel F. Kripke, a professor of psychiatry at UCSD, and the head of the research group. “People who sleep five, six, or seven hours are perfectly safe.”

However, the National Sleep Foundation, which recommends eight hours of sleep, challenged the study. “Although sizable, the study population [friends and relatives of American Cancer Society volunteers] is not a random sample and does not represent the entire population,” said an NSF representative. The NSF argues that the study does not identify geographic and racial factors of the study group.

The idea that sleeping less will lead to longer life cannot yet be proven; In fact, some other studies seem to contradict this idea.

A new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Society suggests that healthy young people who regularly sleep less than 6.5 hours a night had greater insulin resistance than people who have 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep at night, according to an online article published by Insulin resistance is the condition that often leads to Type 2 diabetes. Less sleep in this case could increase the risk of mortality.

Students must not use these findings of either study as a rationalization for study shortcomings. These studies do not mean that we need less or more sleep. A higher risk for accidents and weakening of the immune system are still associated with inadequate sleep. However, these studies might eventually change the notion of “adequate sleep equals eight hours.”




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