By Bob Greene for BestLifeDiet.com
How many hours of sleep did you get last night? If you answered seven (or right around there), then you’re in great shape—seven seems to be the magic number for sleep, according to new preliminary research.
You may already know that skimping on shuteye is associated with a number of problems. Your ability to focus and your reflexes are impaired, which can lead to accidents and decreased productivity. Then, there’s a whole host of physical changes that occur when you’re sleep deprived. For instance, your metabolism slows down and your body pumps out more ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and less leptin, the hormone that signals fullness, putting you at an increased risk for obesity and diabetes.
That’s enough to make you want to pull the covers over your head! But researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that too much sleep is not good for you either. In fact, it seems to impair memory and brain function.
Using data collected from 120,000 nurses who are part of the Nurse’s Health Study, the researchers found that those who logged less than five or more than nine hours of slumber per night scored lower on cognitive tests than those who slept around seven. (They presented their findings at the recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.) That means that logging the right amount of sleep may help keep your brain sharp and potentially protect against dementia as you get older.
Sleep is an important part of my Best Life weight loss plan, and is also one of four key components of my 20 Years Younger anti-aging plan; on both programs, we recommend between seven and nine hours a night.
Not getting this amount? Figure out what’s standing between you and a good night’s rest. Are you feeling overwhelmed by work or family obligations? If so, look at your priorities—you may have to delegate or re-prioritize to ensure that you get your seven hours.
Other common sleep saboteurs: sleep apnea (a disorder in which you briefly stop breathing throughout the night), depression and insomnia. Even where you live may affect how well you snooze. If you think you may have a condition that’s interfering with sleep, check in with your doctor.
The bottom line: If you want to achieve good health, getting enough sleep must be a priority. It’s just as important as eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and staying up on screenings and medical appointments.