Researchers have found that sleeping more than 7 hours a day can be just as damaging  as sleeping less than 5 hours, both increasing the risk of developing coronary heart diseases. // Photo credit: Creative Commons (Flickr)
Researchers have found that sleeping more than 7 hours a day can be just as damaging as sleeping less than 5 hours, both increasing the risk of developing coronary heart diseases. // Photo credit: Creative Commons (Flickr)

Lack of sleep can do great damage to your health – but what about too much sleep?

Have you ever complained about lack of sleep? Or decided to extend your day to fit things in despite that early start the following day? If so, you may want to think very carefully the next time you decide to replace a good night of sleep with loads of caffeinated drinks…and perhaps reconsider staying those extra minutes in bed if you’ve already overslept.

Nowadays, anyone claiming to sleep for over 8 hours would be regarded as privileged ? after all, when would you find time to sleep for that long? It is no mystery that losing sleep can have diverse health effects. Your body needs rest in order to replace all the energy it lost during active hours, almost like a reset button. If you go unrested for long periods of time, your cells start dying in order to offer their energy to living cells that need it more. Alternative energy sources such as caffeinated food and drinks can mask the effects for a few hours, but should never be used as a replacement for a good nights’ sleep. As boring or difficult as it may sound, especially if you’re enjoying life as a fresher or are snowed under with the pressure of final year, it is mandatory that you take some time to rest. However, much like lack of sleep can cause permanent damage to your health, scientists have now found that sleeping too much can be just as damaging.

Researchers from the School of Medicine from Sungkyunkwan University have conducted a study where approximately 50.000 young and middle aged healthy men and women were evaluated as to their quality of sleep, presence of coronary artery lesions and blood vessel stretchiness. Their findings on sleeping patterns were, if not unexpected, quite surprising. The article, published on the 10th of September on Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis and vascular biology, claims that people whose sleeping patterns include sleeping less than 5 hours a night have similar risk to increased calcium deposits in the arteries as those who sleep more than 7 hours. Moreover, those participants who slept for more than 9 hours had an even higher chance of damaging their arteries when compared to those who slept for only 7 hours. The damage builds up with time, and as arteries are large, stretchy blood vessels with high internal pressure, if calcium gets deposited across its extension they become calcified and less stretchy, which can lead to elevated blood pressure and, sometimes, leads to rupture. It is important to note the study was conducted with adult participants only, who are more likely to develop an erratic sleeping pattern over time. According to the National Sleep Foundation, after the teenage years (14?17 years) sleeping time variation reaches a plateau, remaining between 7?9 hours for young adults and 7?8 hours for older adults.

As students, we often neglect our health for many reasons. More often than not you’ll hear someone say they’re too busy working their way through lectures, coursework and exams, or they have to work part?time to pay their bills; not to mention all the parties they’ll have on the way. Nonetheless, keeping up with our own health should be a priority, regardless of lack of time. If you’re not doing anything healthy today, try this: go to bed early enough to wake up after 8 hours, and see the difference it’ll make when you start a brand new day.

By Marcela Usmari