Global sales for sleeping pills will pass $5 billion in the next several years, and the number of young adults using sleeping pills recently doubled over a four-year period.
However, above and beyond the many known dangers of the pills themselves, excess sleep itself may be unhealthy.
A six-year study of more than 1 million adults has shown that patients who got between six and seven hours of sleep a night have a lower mortality rate than those who got eight hours.
In fact, the lead researcher on the study believes that there is little evidence supporting the notion that a patient who sleeps eight hours a night functions any better than one who sleeps no more than seven hours.
Moreover, another study has shown that those who sleep half that much -- 3.5 hours -- live longer too.
The actual number of Americans with real sleep problems is unclear, because the statistical information lumps insomnia, jetlag, sleepwalking, bed wetting, night terrors, sleep apnea, narcolepsy and other disorders into one catch-all category.
While this article focuses primarily on the perils of taking sleeping pills -- a subject I discuss often on my blog -- the information it contains about nightly hours of sleep and mortality is fascinating.
However, the research on the subject is far from definitive. Earlier research from the
Other research shows that too little sleep will accelerate aging and raise cortisol levels. While it is possible that not everyone needs eight hours of sleep a night, a wealth of research indicates that less than six can have negative health effects.
The real trick is to optimize your lifestyle so the sleep you get every night is restful, restorative and drug-free.
Also, please understand that the way you wake up in the morning is just as important as how long you sleep at night. The safest and most effective way to wake up in the morning, feeling refreshed and energized, is by the rising of the sun.
I haven't used an alarm for the last five years, but when I was using alarms I absolutely hated waking up to an alarm. The startling noise probably causes harm to your adrenals.
Ideally it would be best to wake up to sunshine but for many of us that is not possible. A nifty artificial way to cause the "sun to shine" when you need it are Dawn Simulators. It really is a near ideal way to wake up if you are unable to wake up spontaneously when you need to.
The neat thing about these types of alarms is that if you are really tired you will sleep right through it, but if you are reasonably rested you will wake up as soon as it becomes light.
So unless you are going to miss a plane it is probably best to use this type of alarm and be a bit late for your first morning duties, as getting a good night's sleep is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy.