8 Isn’t the Magic Number

PhotobucketInsomniacs and night owls rejoice! Researchers from the UC San Diego School of Medicine conducted a long term study to monitor the effects of sleep on longevity among women, and found that the women who had between 5 and 6.5 hours of sleep lived the longest. Whhhhhhhatttttt? (Insert Lil Jon voice)

For years, the common refrain has been that without 8 hours of sleep on a regular basis then you will be a wrinkly old broad that could keel over at any moment. Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic but really, I don’t know many women (or anyone for that matter) that get 8 hours of sleep every night especially here in NYC. Getting that magic number of zzzz’s has been identified as the key to youth and health, even if that is an unrealistic goal for many of us.

The study was initially conducted in between 1995 and 1999 to see the connections between sleep duration and mortality in 459 San Diego women ages 50-81, and researchers have revisited the study to see who was still alive. Of the original participants, they found 444 and of that 86 had died. But among the survivors, those women who slept between 5 and 6.5 hours had the highest survival rate. According to the lead researcher, Daniel F. Kripke, MD, “women who slept less than 5 hours or more than 6.5 hours were less likely to be alive at the 14-year follow-up.”

This is not to say that we need to be obsessive-compulsive about getting exactly 6 hours of sleep each night, or that if you sleep 7 hours your life will be dramatically cut short. But I agree with the researchers who assert that these findings can help women relax about the amount of sleep they are receiving. About 5 minutes before I found this article, I was watching a commercial for some pill guaranteed to give you 8 hours of restful sleep with some “doctor” talking about how you can’t make up for lost sleep by sleeping longer on the weekends. I started to stress out…which is not helping my longevity.

This is important for women because we are often multi-tasking: working one or more jobs, heading households, raising our children and others, being a caretaker for family and friends…the list goes on. Self-care often ends up being low on our list of priorities, and then we feel terrible that we aren’t taking care of ourselves. Worrying about how lack of sleep affecting our health can only have one result: making us sick.

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