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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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September 24, 2007

The Evidence Mounts: Our Modern Lifestyle Is Unhealthy

By Mark Sisson
39 Comments

A major study (17 years, 10,000 participants) finds that a busy lifestyle in which sleep is sacrificed is directly linked to increased disease risk across the board but especially heart disease, even when accounting for other risk factors such as smoking and obesity. Perhaps most astounding – to me, anyway – is that fully 40% of Americans get less than five hours of sleep, on average, per night. Between work and the kids, my wife and I don’t always get the luxury of 7 or 8 hours, and I know it’s the same for many of you.

For decades, 8 hours was the standard recommendation from health experts, but it now appears that 7 is a healthy amount of sleep provided that the sleep is quality and this is a consistent pattern. A lot of us get by with 6, but the fact that a significant portion of Americans make due with fewer than 5 hours is incredible. In economic terms we have a multitude of considerations: soaring health care costs, reduced labor productivity, increased numbers of auto collisions. In social terms, this surely can’t be good for relationships and quality of life, though understandably that’s a tough one to quantify. In public health terms, however, the costs are shockingly severe. Heart disease is our number one killer. We tend to focus on diet and obesity as the major factors in CHD, but this study confirms that lack of adequate sleep – and I think we can reasonably include stress in this issue – has an enormous effect on your cardiovascular health by doubling the risk of heart disease.

Let me know your thoughts. How much sleep do you get on average? What are possible solutions? Do we need a shorter work day?

Further reading:

Simple Stretches to Do at the End of the Workday (Relieve Stress Fast!)

10 Forgotten (Instant!) Stress Relief Tips

10 Smart Ways to Reduce Stress Permanently

HT: Mike via Sara

Flickr Photo (CC)

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39 Comments on "The Evidence Mounts: Our Modern Lifestyle Is Unhealthy"

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Sara
9 years 4 days ago

If I don’t get 7 hours a night, I feel the effects almost immediately. The worst thing that happens is that I start to get depressed – which disappears instantly as soon as I get a good quality 7 hour snooze. Makes you wonder about the percentage of Americans on anti-depressants…

Wilson
Wilson
9 years 4 days ago

I’ve been doing around 6 hours per night for a long time now. But it happens naturally. I use an alarm clock during the week, but even on the weekends I’ll get up around 6 hours after I go to bed. Is it possible my bio clock’s a little different, or do I need to start trying to squish that extra hour in?

Ashley Wagner
9 years 4 days ago
First, I’m new reader here – I just came across your site and subscribed to your feed – great site! 🙂 Now to answer your question, I try to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, and boy does it make a difference! When I was a college student, I was lucky if I got 4-5 hours and it took a toll on my body. During that time I was also gainging a lot of weight. Finally I decided I needed to get my butt in gear and change my unhealthy habits. I did just that which included getting more… Read more »
Donna
Donna
9 years 4 days ago

I’m A Big Believer In Getting My Sleep, I Guess It’s Easy For Me Because My Girls Are Grown Up And At The End Of The Day, I Just Chill Out And Call It Quits For The Day.. Starts After Dinner. Tonight Is Monday Night Football,In The Louisiana SuperDome And I’m Excited And Can’t Wait To Just Sit And Watch The Game, As I Do All Day Sunday.
I Just Do What I Can In The Day And Save The REST IN THE EVENING,Taking A Walk In The Evening Is Relaxing, I Enjoy That! It Works For Me!

Sara
9 years 4 days ago

I am working on getting better quality sleep. I usually get 7 or 8 hours but it’s not always deep sleep. I find that if I remember to give myself “wind down” time I sleep much better. 🙂

Brian
Brian
9 years 4 days ago
Like Wilson my pattern is 6 hours, and most days I wake up about 5 minutes prior to the alarm clock, and on those rare days when I say to myself ‘Roll over and go back to sleep’. I get up a hour later, and the whole rest of the day I feel slow and lethargic. So hopefully it’s genetics, and I’m not sending myself to an early grave, but I know my Grandfather was a 6 hour sleeper and he almost made it to 100. Which if get even close to that I will count myself lucky. 😉
Jaime
9 years 4 days ago
I don’t know if I’m a freak or something… I know I tend to be a sleepy person… but 7-8 during the week is standard for me, and I often get 9 or 10 at least one weekend night. And I’ve got a pretty demanding work schedule, working many nights in addition to regular hours. I mean, yes, I’m not working two jobs or 80 hours a week. But I guess I just need a lot of sleep, and prioritize accordingly. I slept less when I lived with roommates (and a TV), but now it’s like, I’m tired, so I’m… Read more »
Mikeachim
9 years 4 days ago

Sara wrote my comment. 🙂 If I don’t get 7 hours, I feel it very quickly, and the first thing to go is my mood. I’ve noticed it in recent weeks when I’ve gone with 5 hours a night maybe twice or three times during the working week, and it’s simply floored my optimism. Yes – it would be interesting to tally up incidents of depression and incidents of sleep deprivation and see if there’s a correlation….

Exercise is the key to a good night’s sleep, for me. When my workout falters, my sleep becomes disturbed….

Scott Kustes
9 years 4 days ago
7.5-9 hours per night for me, including most Fridays and Saturdays. I’m not a big-time partier, so I have no problem going to hang out and still making it to bed by midnight. When I have to get up for work the next day, I’m in bed around 9:30 most of the time and rarely am I up past 10. I get up at 6am to start my day. I used to burn the candle at both ends (last year of college and first job) and paid the price in terms of always being tired, having difficulty concentrating and staying… Read more »
terry
terry
9 years 4 days ago
The demands that we have set and are setting on ourselves as far as what is expected from us in the workplace is insane, truly! We seem to be a culture that prides ourselves on staying late and getting up early. We have sacrificed a healthy, fulfilling, meaningful life for anxiety, quota and deadlines. I wish America was more European in this way, placing the premium on peoples well being rather than what’s best for the company. If we could be more like Europe, and learn that we are more important than things, we would simply live longer happier lives.… Read more »
Mikeachim
9 years 4 days ago

Oh, and…on the subject of an answer….

Something I feel very strongly about.

*Siestas*.

Or powernaps. Call them what you will.

I don’t believe human beings are designed to work for 8 hours without a total power-down. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes. My feeling (nothing more – but it would make an interesting anthropological study) is that we’re natural square pegs, trying to fit into the round holes that are standardised Western business hours. The system is what needs to change, not us.

Oxybeles
Oxybeles
9 years 4 days ago

Doing the math reveals that I awake at 4:13AM weekdays, which means I should be asleep by 10:13PM for six hours or 9:13PM for seven hours….

This translates to about five hours thirteen minutes-28 minutes a night, as I usually have the opportunity to go to bed between 10:45PM & 11:00PM.

primalman08
primalman08
9 years 4 days ago
Sleep is something that has interested me for years. I help people sleep better as a part of my profession. Personally, I feel best when I sleep 8 1/2 – 9 hours per night. A few nights in a row of only 7 hours usually results in me getting sick. There is about 15% of the population that does very well on 6 hours of sleep per night. On the other end, there is about 15% of the population that needs 9-10 hours per night for optimal functioning. Americans now average about 6 1/2 hours per night. 25 years ago… Read more »
Kevin Burnett
Kevin Burnett
9 years 4 days ago

I’m in bed from 7 to 8 hours a night usually and maybe once every two weeks I’ll hit 9 hours if I’ve been training really hard. I have found that the quality of my sleep has gotten worse as I age though and I’m starting to look into ways (beyond keeping the room cool, quiet, and dark) to make it better – any ideas would be appreciated.

Crystal
Crystal
9 years 3 days ago

7-8 hours of quality sleep is just a guide, everyone is different and everyone should know what they need to feel good. I am amazed that Americans get so little sleep. Is this by choice? I know people are busy, but how does anyone function on 5 hours of sleep? If people can not sleep, then there is a problem and it is not an anti-depressant defiency.

Sara
9 years 3 days ago

I love naps but I just can’t do them too often. It takes me 20 minutes to fall asleep and then I can’t wake up for more than two hours, which isn’t healthy for a nap. If I set an alarm so the nap stays under an hour, then I’m groggy the rest of the day. So I save naps for the weekends 🙂

Sue
Sue
9 years 3 days ago
When I was younger getting enough sleep was no problem. Now though, I have many nights that I find myself looking at the ceiling after two or three hours of sleep. Falling asleep is no problem,it’s staying asleep. My mind likes to work overtime, hashing and rehashing the problems of the day. The doc says I need to find a way to release some of the stress I have these days. Concern over aging parents in poor health, grown children 20hours away, or just anything! I know it isn’t healthy, that stress can really do our bodies harm, but I’m… Read more »
Jess
Jess
9 years 3 days ago
As a college student, I’m an anomaly. I’m in bed by 10:30 most nights, and up at 6 or 6:30 so I can exercise before class. I try sleeping in sometimes, but I end up waking up at the same time. Earplugs and a sleep mask help make this possible. The fact that my roommate isn’t in the room 90 percent of the time is also conducive to good sleep. On occasion, I get insomnia, which either results from heightened stress (i.e. before a huge test) or consumption of bad carbs (candy, cookies) close to bed I usually avoid keeping… Read more »
Mark
9 years 3 days ago

Primalman08,

“Luxury” was just a figure of speech. No one has railed on the importance of sleep as much as I have. I do try to average 8/night for the week. I have never in my life (even in college) pulled an “all-nighter.” Maybe it’s time for a dedicated Primal Health piece just on sleep. Thanks for driving the point home, though. 🙂

Donna
Donna
9 years 3 days ago

I Really “Enjoy” My Good Nights Rest, I Always Sleep So Well! I Exercise And I Believe That Helps Me Sleep Like A Log.

Lemur
Lemur
9 years 3 days ago
Hi, I’m new to posting here, but have been reading this blog for a couple months now. Just wanted to chime in to say I’m one of those people who needs 9-10 hours of sleep to function. If I get less than 8 hours I need to take something to stay awake and still have trouble focusing, sometimes it’s all I can do to stay awake at my desk. Other bad effects include being really cranky, my muscles ache (especially my legs), and my skin looks cruddy. When I get enough sleep I wake up with clear, glowing skin and… Read more »
Tobias
Tobias
9 years 3 days ago

Like Lemur, I feel a lot better with 9-10 hrs sleep than with 8.

Primalman08: You made an interesting comment that “humans also need to spend about 60 minutes in a relaxed drowsy state that is free of stress and problem solving”. Where did you come by this fact? Certainly I feel happier and more relaxed on days when I have some time like this, but I’d never really considered it a “need”. About every second day I go on a relaxed 1hr walk/run through the countryside in my lunch break, and I feel noticeably calmer for it.

Heather
Heather
9 years 3 days ago
Like someone stated before, I also believe we need to take a more European approach to work ethic, and life in general. When you go to European countries, you don’t see as many obese people, like you do in the US. People seem happier and nicer, and it’s probably because they aren’t stuck inside a fluorescent-lit office for close to 10 hours a day! I think we need to stop placing SO much emphasis on production, work, and how much we can acheive, and focus more on quality of living. What good is working 40+ hours a week when you’re… Read more »
Richard
9 years 3 days ago
I am definately a statistic. I average 4-5 hours a night and have since about 1981. Thats not to say on occasion I dont get a good 7 or 8 but 99% of my sleep is in the 5 hours or less range. I am a computer programmer by trade and also a sleep apnea sufferer who cant stand to be on his equipment too long but cant sleep without it. In contrast my father gets about 6 hours of sleep a night and takes a .75 hour nap at lunch time every day and has for about 20 years.… Read more »
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[…] next Hot Stuff nominee is written by Mark Sisson, who brings our attention to sleep and it’s effect on our health. Lots of great sleep/health links, which should benefit all parents, especially those whose babies […]

Stu Mark
9 years 3 days ago

This essay (with great links) has been nominated for Hot Stuff Of The Week by our readers at GNMParents.com

primalman08
primalman08
9 years 2 days ago
Tobias on Primalman08: You made an interesting comment that “humans also need to spend about 60 minutes in a relaxed drowsy state that is free of stress and problem solving”. Where did you come by this fact? Certainly I feel happier and more relaxed on days when I have some time like this, but I’d never really considered it a “need”. About every second day I go on a relaxed 1hr walk/run through the countryside in my lunch break, and I feel noticeably calmer for it. It is probably an exaggeration to say that this is “fact.” It is more… Read more »
Nancy
Nancy
9 years 2 days ago
Well most nights I don’t get enough sleep. On a good night I’ll be in bed by 10, asleep by 10:30 and then up at 5:45. I have to get myself ready before my kids get up. Then in the evening it seems we are on the go to guitar lessons, hockey and/or football practice, church choir, or Cub Scouts. And by the time I cook dinner, do the dishes, bathe the kids, help with homework, read, tuck in, and then do any cleaning I feel like I don’t have that hour to “unwind”, but I take it anyway which… Read more »
heykapo
heykapo
9 years 2 days ago

Thanks to all you long sleepers. If I don’t get my 10 hours a night, and sometimes a nap as well, I don’t function. Yes, I feel guilty. But only when I’m awake.

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kirstin
kirstin
4 years 28 days ago

I sleep 7.5 hours on average; occasionally I sleep longer than that (9-12 hours… ) but rarely less (I only sleep less than that if something abnormal disrupts my sleep; ie. lots of loud noise outside, etc.; never by choice basically).

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