Celebrity hair stylist Kristan Serafino’s jam-packed schedule forced her to put a good night’s sleep on the backburner. Serafino—who has styled Matthew Mc Conaughey, Meg Ryan—would nab only four hours of shut-eye each night, and lean on props at photo shoots to keep herself from collapsing. “Chugging coffee was a big help,” she recalls.
The health consequences of too little sleep
Even though sleep researchers are still trying to unravel why, exactly, we sleep—it seems to have restorative, healing powers and helps us sort and file away our daily memories—there’s no doubt that we can’t live without it.“You can live longer without food and water than you can without sleep,” says Lisa Shives, M.D., medical director of Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Illinois.
Consistently not getting enough sleep doesn’t just leave you a dazed, moody and forgetful former version of yourself, chronic sleep deprivation can also put you a risk for a whole host of health problems ranging from diabetes to hypertension and obesity—all of which can affect longevity, according to Sonia Ancoli-Israel, Ph.D., director of the Gillin Sleep and Chronomedicine Research Center and professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego.
Too much sleep hurts health, too
Unlike Serafino who trudged through the day on little sleep, beauty editor Courtney Dunlop was convinced she couldn’t function without nine hours of slumber each night. “I used to say that I prefer 10 hours of sleep, but that I try for at least nine,” recalls Dunlop. “The thing is, I was always tired. All day long—tired.”Dunlop’s tipping point came when she got a new job that required her to show up at the office by 9 a.m. rather than the 10 a.m. start time she was used to at her previous job. “It was unrealistic to go to bed earlier than I already was, so I started getting seven-and-a-half hours of sleep at night.”Surprisingly, Dunlop felt more alert, with enough extra energy to work out in the evenings. “I used to oversleep almost every day,” she says. “I’m not saying I suddenly jump out of bed all cheery now, but it’s not as hard anymore.”
Dunlop did her energy, and her health, a favor by scaling down her sleep schedule. New sleep research shows there is a U-shaped relationship between slumber and longevity, meaning that getting too little—or too much—sleep will raise your mortality rate. Numerous studies have come to the same conclusion: People who self-reported sleeping more than seven-and-a-half hours a night or less than six to six-and-a-half hours a night had an increased risk of death.While not logging enough snooze time has a clear and direct affect on your health, “getting too much sleep—a condition called hypersomnia—isn’t a problem on its own per se,” says Dr. Shives. It’s the fact that oversleeping can be a red flag for an underlying health condition, such as obstructive sleep apnea—a dangerous disorder that causes people to stop breathing momentarily during sleep—and depression.