We’ve long been told that sleep is the ideal remedy for most ailments. There has been a general belief among most people that the body gets sick and muscles begin to ache because of a lack of proper rest. However, a new study reveals that getting too much sleep could actually be bad for you.
If you sleep more than nine hours in a night, and sit for most of the day without getting much exercise, this combination could be just as hazardous to your health as drinking alcohol and smoking. Experts further warn that people who live sedentary lives are four times more likely to die early, and there has been increasing evidence over the years to confirm that sitting for long periods of time is bad for the body and overall health.
One of the most recent studies on sleep comes from the University of Sydney. It is the first study to look at the implications of sleep and sedentary habits on health. Dr. Melody Ding is the author of the study and the senior research fellow at the University of Sydney. She states that “when you add a lack of exercise into the mix, you get a type of ‘triple whammy’ effect.” Dr. Ding also asserts that the study confirms that people should be taking sleeping and sitting for long periods as seriously as excess drinking and eating unhealthy foods on a regular basis.
Dr. Ding worked with a research team who looked at the health behaviors of more than 230,000 people who were over the age of 45. The study was known as the “45 and Up Study: and was the largest study in Australia that explores health as a person ages.
The study analyzed behaviors that are already known to cause a decline in health, such as excess drinking, smoking, a diet nearly void of healthy foods and physical inactivity. Prolonged sitting time and getting too much or too little sleep were also factored into the equation.
The researchers also looked at the various risk factor combinations to determine which group of risks were most likely to cause premature death. The research team concluded that prolonged sleep, lack of exercise and sitting were a fatal trio.
However, this same study also revealed that a lack of sleep, classified as seven hours or less a night, can also increase the risk of death by four times when combined with excessive drinking and smoking. Other risk factor combinations that caused concern were not getting exercise and sleeping too much, as well as sitting too much and not exercising, as well as smoking and drinking excessively.
The co-author of the study, Adrian Bauman, stated that “the take-home message from this research–for doctors, health planners and researchers–is that if we want to design public health programs that will reduce the massive burden and cost of lifestyle-related disease we should focus on how these risk factors work together rather than in isolation.”
Bauman also added that diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes are now the causes of death for more than 38 million people in the world. These conditions, which are non-communicable, cause more fatalities than infectious diseases. These diseases are quite prevalent in the African-American community. For instance, Blacks are 60 percent more likely to develop diabetes than Whites, and Black men are four times more likely to die from lung cancer than White men, even though they are exposed to tobacco at a lower rate. These risks can be reduced by adopting a healthier lifestyle that includes getting more exercise and eating more whole foods such as fresh vegetables and fruits and whole grains.
Brauman states that a “better understanding” of the combination of risk behaviors that pose the greatest threat will guide health professionals in determining how to address this international health issue.