BY CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON
Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 18, 2002
Students who think their studies are depriving them of enough sleep may be comforted to learn that infrequent visits to dreamland may actually add a few years to their life.
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A study released in February at the University of California at San Diego determined that those who sleep for less than the conventional eight hours each night may live longer than those who sleep more.
Based on a 1982 American Cancer Society questionnaire that asked 1.1 million participants from ages 30 to 102 about their sleep patterns and frequency of insomnia, the study found that those who slept for about eight hours per night were 12 percent more likely to die within the next six years than those who slept for six to seven hours per night. The risk of death for those who reported more than 8.5 hours or less than 4.5 hours of sleep per night increased to 15 percent.
"The study shows that if a person feels well rested after five, six or seven hours sleep, there is no medical need to sleep longer," the author of the study Daniel Kripke said.
Despite the results of the study, some local neurologists did not alter their view that more sleep will provide better health.
"The majority of the population needs eight hours of sleep (but) school-age or teenagers may need nine to 10 hours," Flavia Consens, a clinical assistant professor at the University Medical School, said.
"The study is sending a wrong message," Marco Dotti, a fellow at the Medical School"s Sleep Disorder Center, said.
"We recommend in general seven or eight (hours of sleep) a night. There is strictly a minority who need six hours of sleep," Dotti said. "The thing is feeling refreshed and being able to function well."
Kripke asserted the researchers made provisions in the study for many variables.
"The study was controlled for race, gender and exercise," he said.
"The data are very similar for men and women. We did not measure stress directly, but we did control for whether or not people said they were upset," Kripke added.
Heart disease and cancer were the main causes of death for those who died within six years after the survey.
Kripke maintained the results of the research leave many questions about the connection between sleep patterns and mortality.
"This study did not examine sleep deprivation of acute sleep loss. Future controlled trials are needed to see if any sleeping pills are safe and effective for long-term use and to see if voluntarily restricting sleep prolongs life," Kripke said.
Some undergraduate students on campus are skeptical of the study"s merit and its findings and do not plan to adjust their sleep patterns.
"I think I feel healthier when I get more sleep. I don"t know if that"s going to cause my death or not," LSA freshman Marisa Rommeney, said.
"I think you feel a lot better if you get eight full hours of sleep a night," Engineering junior Michael Killingsworth said.
"I"d like to known how much longer my life would be shortened if I got eight hours of sleep," LSA freshman Jason Brown said. "If we"re talking about a month or a year I don"t think I"d really care about it if I can function better during the day."