Less Sleep = More Death

Man Sleeping in a lawn chairA recent study published in the journal Sleep demonstrated a 4-fold increase in the death rate of men who had insomnia compared with men who slept at least 6 hours or more each night. The study investigated 1741 men and women randomly selected from Central Pennsylvania, and followed them for at least 10 years.

Insomnia was self-defined by the participants, who were also proven to sleep less than 6 hours a night in a sleep lab. Normal sleep was defined as more than 6 hours a night. Both women and men with insomnia suffered higher blood pressure, more diabetes, and more neuro-cognitive deficits than normal sleepers.

Sleeplessness can be caused by mental or emotional stress or even by eating a large meal too late at night. Many people get less sleep from staying up too late studying, watching TV, texting, or playing video games before trying to go to sleep. On the other hand, sleep can be enhanced by physical labor or exercise that produces weariness.

Ellen White, a 19th century health reformer, wrote about dangers of getting too little sleep and that exercise can reverse the situation:

“The healthful weariness which results from well-regulated labor secures to the benefits of refreshing sleep.” (Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 97)

“Make it a habit not to sit up after nine o’clock. Every light should be extinguished. This turning night into day is a wretched, health-destroying habit, and this reading much by brain workers, up to the sleeping hours, is very injurious to health. It calls the blood to the brain and then there is restlessness and wakefulness, and the precious sleep that should rest the body does not come when desired.” (Daughters of God, 177)

“Another pernicious habit is that of eating just before bedtime. The regular meals may have been taken; but because there is a sense of faintness, more food is taken. By indulgence this wrong practice becomes a habit and often so firmly fixed that it is thought impossible to sleep without food. As a result of eating late suppers, the digestive process is continued through the sleeping hours. But though the stomach works constantly, its work is not properly accomplished. The sleep is often disturbed with unpleasant dreams, and in the morning the person awakes unrefreshed and with little relish for breakfast. When we lie down to rest, the stomach should have its work all done, that it, as well as the other organs of the body, may enjoy rest. For persons of sedentary habits late suppers are particularly harmful. With them the disturbance created is often the beginning of disease that ends in death.” (Child Guidance, 389)