An extremely rude study just attacked my love of sleeping


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Photo: Getty Images / Caia Image / Paul Bradbury

Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by science. No, just me? Cool.

Perhaps this extremely rude study published Wednesday in the European Heart Journal will change your mind. It looked at the sleep habits of over 100,000 people, aged 35-70, living in 21 different countries over the course of nearly eight years. At the end of the study there were 4,381 deaths and 4,365 cardiovascular events (like heart attacks and strokes). Looking at those incidences and comparing them to the reported amount of sleep, researchers found that sleeping more than eight hours per night was associated with an increased risk of death and major cardiovascular event, compared to people who slept for six to eight hours a night.

So basically, my favorite weekend activity is under attack. Is personalizing the findings of exhaustive research dramatic? Yes, but I stand by my analysis, especially after reading their results in detail.

Before adjusting for factors like existing illnesses, researchers found that for every 1,000 people who slept for six to eight hours a day, 7.8 people died or experienced major cardiovascular events. For people who slept eight to nine hours a night, that number was 8.4 per 1,000. For those who slept from nine to 10 hours a night, it was 10.4 per 1,000 people. And for people who slept over 10 hours a night, it was 14.8 per 1,000 people. (See that number going up with more sleep?)

Translating that into risk, people who slept for eight to nine hours a night had a five percent increased risk of mortality and cardiovascular events, people who slept from nine to 10 hours a night had a 17 percent increased risk, and people who slept for more than 10 hours a night had a 41 percent increased risk, according to a release from the European Society of Cardiology (which publishes the European Heart Journal).

The study also found that daytime napping was associated with a small increased risk of death and major cardiovascular events if the person napping was getting what was considered a “sufficient” amount of sleep at night (at least six hours, which I find hilarious). On the other hand, the study authors also found that napping “might be beneficial if individuals slept less at night (< six hours per night) and compensated for lack of nocturnal sleep.”

These researchers further concluded (as if they hadn’t hurt me enough already) that not only is sleeping too much probably not a great sign for your health, but sleeping too little (less than six hours a night) was similarly associated with a nine percent increased risk of death and major cardiovascular events compared to those getting six to eight hours a night. Which just feels like an attack on those of us trying our damn best to get enough sleep. (Especially because it only gets harder as you get older!)

Sleep is to me what the One True Ring is to Gollum from Lord of the Rings: It’s my precious, and it’s also really hard to get.

Excuse you, science, but who are you to come between me and sleep? I am a human woman who has a stressful job, lives on a busy street with a very active bus stop right below my bedroom window, and has three incurably nocturnal cats and a boyfriend who snores. Sleep is to me what the One True Ring is to Gollum from Lord of the Rings: It’s my precious, and it’s also really hard to get. How dare you tell me that my love of going to bed at 10 p.m. on a Friday, sleeping until 9 a.m. the next morning, and then taking a nap at 2 p.m. is probably a bad idea? Don’t take this one small joy from me!

I did, however, take comfort in one silver lining here. As noted by its authors, this study was observational, and thus can’t prove any causality—meaning that just the fact that someone (ahem, me) is sleeping a lot doesn’t definitively mean they’re going to have a heart attack and die. (Good news!) And they added that people reporting their sleep habits could be conflating the time they spend in bed with the time actually sleeping (which as all of us who are sh*tty sleepers know, is def not the same thing).

However, the study authors note that people who sleep longer “may have underlying conditions” that could increase the risk of cardiovascular issues and mortality, so the extra sleep could be a warning sign of illness. Which is…admittedly a really good point. These findings are also in line with previous research on the subject that’s found a correlation between too much sleep and mortality risk, so, unfortunately, I can’t just dismiss all of this as a scientific fluke.

Okay, science, I guess I should chill out with my 10-hours-of-sleep-every-weekend-and-holiday thing. Although, if my love of hitting the snooze button sends me to an early grave, at least I will die the way I lived: happily sleeping.

In other rude science news, lack of sleep definitely is making you angry (which, duh). And here’s the scoop on whether collagen can actually help you sleep.  

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