A woman attending a talk I gave on insomnia was worried about developing Alzheimer’s because she wasn’t getting enough sleep.
“Sometimes I sleep only 4 hours a night,” she said, “and I’m really lucky when I get 5.”
There’s a lot of talk these days about the health risks that accumulate if we sleep less than 7 or 8 hours a night. But reports that appear in the popular media can make the risks sound greater than they actually are.
The October issue of the journal Sleep showcases research that may be sobering for people who struggle with chronic insomnia. Short sleepers—defined variously as people who report getting 5 or fewer, 6 or fewer, or less than 7 hours of sleep a night—are more vulnerable to a host of nasties, including obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, suicidal ideation, and dementia.
But sleep length is only one factor in the equation that predicts long-term health.