It seems we're always being told to get more sleep — and for good reason.
Studies suggest skimping on sleep can lead to obesity, diabetes and even cancer. You might even find yourself with a head-full of false memories.
But rarely does science explore the dark side of sleeping too much. Maybe that's probably because few of us in today's work-addled world have the luxury of exploring that option.
It turns out, even that end of the sleep spectrum is not without its perils.
In a new study, published this month in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers plumbed the sleep patterns of those "fortunate" few — and found they may not be so lucky after all.
In fact, they found people who get more than eight hours of sleep have greater mortality and cardiovascular risk compared to those who cobbled together less than seven hours.
What's more, sleep-aholics — those who manage to get 10 hours a night — stood a 30 percent higher chance of dying compared to the seven-hour crowd.
"Our study has an important public health impact in that it shows that excessive sleep is a marker of elevated cardiovascular risk," lead researcher Chun Shing Kwok of Keele University notes in a press release.
The wide-ranging global study involved more than 3 million people who self-reported on their sleep habits — and came to an eye-opening conclusion:
If you tend to sleep a lot, you may want to invest in an alarm clock. Or even a rooster.
Because, as with all things in life, sleep is best taken in moderation.
Of course, there's still that whole chicken-before-the-egg question: Do people with high mortality rates tend to sleep more? Or do people who sleep more tend to develop higher mortality rates because of it?
Sleep, the final doctor/patient frontier
In any case, the research points to a new and possibly life-saving line of questioning at the doctor's office: Namely, how much do you sleep?
"The important message is that abnormal sleep is a marker of elevated cardiovascular risk and greater consideration should be given in exploring both duration and sleep quality during patient consultations," Kwok says.
The sweet spot for sleep? That time-tested prescription of seven to eight hours.
The researchers admit that sleep is a many-splintered thing — and the amount we can scrape together on any given day fluctuates wildly. It isn't like a multivitamin that we can pop daily and be assured of healthful results.
"The amount and quality of our sleep is complex," Kwok explains. "There are cultural, social, psychological, behavioral, pathophysiological and environmental influences on our sleep such as the need to care for children or family members, irregular working shift patterns, physical or mental illness, and the 24-hour availability of commodities in modern society."
We are indeed living in an increasingly time micro-managed society.
And the boss needed that report — and yes, even this story — yesterday.