by Julia Westbrook
Article featured on www.RodaleNews.com, Feb 25, 2015
The most common red flag is often the one we’re likely to ignore.
Sleep is a fickle creature—like Goldilocks. Too little, and you’re pounding back coffees in the morning. Too much, and you’re head is stuck in a groggy fog all day. And in the search for sleep that’s “just right,” researchers have found health issues on both sides of the happy medium. Sleep deprivation can lead to depression and cancer, and too much sleep (more than eight hours) quadruples your risk for stroke, according to new research published in the journal, Neurology.
While the researchers point out that it’s not clear whether too much sleep is a cause, a consequence, or simply an early red flag of ill health, it’s clear that optimizing your sleep patterns should be a priority.
“Our lives—not to mention our sanity—depend on our ability to fully experience each stage of sleep,” says Gary Kaplan, DO, author of Total Recovery. “Ironically, the sleeping pills many people rely on do not support the quality of their sleep in the night and may be heightening their experience of pain the next day.”
The first thing to do is practice good sleep hygiene, such as turning off all electronics an hour before bed and having a consistent bedtime.
Next, work with your doctor to address any possible underlying health issues. “Taking a sleeping pill is like yanking the batteries out of a screeching fire alarm,” Dr. Kaplan. “If that’s all we do, in some cases, we’re shutting down the irritating warning while the house burns down.” Sleep disorders like sleep apnea can cause hypertension, weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.
If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, he recommends taking the Epworth Sleepiness Scale Quiz or finding a location for a sleep lab overnight evaluation at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. You can get a general idea of your sleep patterns with a home sleep test device that’s reliable, such as the WatchPAT, says Dr. Kaplan.