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Too Much or Too Little Sleep Linked With Chronic Diseases

A new study found that obesity and mental health also play a role in how lack of sleep and chronic diseases are connected.

Doctors have known for a long time that inadequate sleep contributes to chronic diseases, but a new study found that obesity and mental health are also involved.

Researchers from the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention looked at information from over 54,000 people and found that those who slept too little (less than 7 hours) or too much (more than 9 hours) each night were more likely to have coronary heart disease, stroke, or diabetes.

The results, which were published Oct. 1 in the journal SLEEP, showed that obesity and frequent anxiety also play a role in this connection.

“Short sleep or too long of a sleep are linked to chronic disease,” says Dr. M. Safwan Badr, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), “and partially this may be explained by obesity and mental distress, which is a new wrinkle to this equation.”

These connections are very complex. For example, lack of sleep can increase your risk of being obese. Weight problems, though, can lead to sleep apnea which then disrupts your sleep.

“But really,” says Dr. Badr, “the point that we need to keep emphasizing is that short sleep is not healthy. People need to get 7 or 8 hours of sleep.”

While everyone in the study was 45 years or older, Dr. Badr said that even younger people should stop thinking about sleep as a “waste of time,” because early sleep habits can have long-term effects.

Sadly, this may mean turning off your electronics and making a point of going to bed earlier.

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