Sometimes it's OK to hit snooze for a little more sleep—doctor's orders
When we manage to log seven hours of shut-eye, we consider it a good night. Eight hours, and we feel ready to take on the world. And on a lazy weekend, we might even cop to dozing for more than that. But new science says that extra zzz's could be doing us more harm than good: People who regularly spend over eight hours in the sack are 46 percent more likely to have had a stroke than those who stuck to six to eight hours, according to a study in Neurology. (Learn Strange Ways Sleeping Positions Affect Your Health.)
While these findings sound scary, the researchers are quick to point out that they don’t mean too much sleep can cause a stroke. In fact, it could be that dozing is an early symptom of another disease that ups stroke risk. Plus, sleep expert Michael Breus, Ph.D., known as the Sleep Doctor says there are certain times—like the ones below—when a dose of bed rest is the best thing for you.
1. When you’re sick. “Sleep is healing for the body, so when you’re ill, the body appears to require more of it,” says Breus. Fighting off illness is also extremely draining, he adds. When you’re snoozing, your body isn’t using so much energy on your day-to-day activities, and it can be used to keep your immune system up and running instead. (Also important: staying hydrated. These are the Best and Worst Drinks for a Peaceful Night’s Rest.)
2. After a marathon, a triathalon, a Tough Mudder, a couple weeks of extremely grueling training—or any time you’re recovering from extended strenuous exercise. “In part, this has to do with exhaustion from the exercise itself, but there’s some data to suggest that any regular exercise can require more sleep,” notes Breus. “One study in basketball free throw shooting at Stanford found that if players increased their sleep time to 10 hours, their free throw accuracy increased.” (If you find your training gets in the way of your sleep, check out 3 Ways to Prevent Post-Workout Insomnia.)
3. If you’re an insomniac. “The more sleep-deprived a person is, the more they will need to ‘make up’ for lost sleep,” says Breus. But hitting snooze for a few nights doesn’t completely make up for the times you go without sleep, studies show. Plus, if you do it too often you risk throwing off your body clock, which can worsen daytime fatigue, says Breus. (Learn How to Recover from an All-Nighter.)
4. When you’re pregnant. Your ankles are swollen, your back hurts, you’re craving weird foods… it’s no wonder that you’re losing some sleep. If you have trouble snoozing at night, the National Sleep Foundation recommends napping during the day to log enough hours.