Do You Really Need 8 Hours of Sleep?

by Mike Dawson

Each week, writer Mike Dawson tackles the complex, confusing, and often dead-wrong health and fitness myths so you can live smarter.

Good news for us overscheduled go-getters who catch only six hours of shut-eye during the week: We may actually outlive those snoozers who rack up eight or more.

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A recent long-term study of 500 folks published in the journal Sleep Medicine claims those who sleep for more than seven hours a night have a higher mortality rate than those who clock far fewer hours.

Yes, you read that correctly: That old, outdated standard of eight hours a night may, in fact, lead to an early death.

"The best survival was for those who slept five to six and a half hours," says the study's lead researcher, Daniel Kripke, M.D., professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. "This means [those] who sleep as little as five hours have nothing to worry about."

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Still, there is one caveat. Your six hours needs to be a solid, deep slumber. So, as you already should know: Avoid caffeine at night, block all light and noise in your bedroom, and keep the temperature cool. The Sleep Foundation also recommends a consistent bedtime and wake-up call (even on weekends) and to use your bed for only sex and snoozing. That means no TV, reading, or e-mailing.

Congrats. You now have the corniest and/or creepiest late-night pickup line ever: Stay out with me-your life may depend on it.

Sweet dreams.

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