Burning the midnight oil can be bad for your health


A good night’s sleep is said to cure many things: Had a bad day? Stressed out by life? Sleep on it and you’ll feel better in the morning. Feel a little under the weather? Get some rest. Need to be at the top of your game for work or a special event? Get plenty of shut-eye the night before. Unfortunately, a growing number of people do not heed this advice, with 28 percent of Americans voluntarily getting six or less hours of sleep per night. This trend is leading to poor health and productivity and is being described as a public health epidemic.

The effects of short sleep

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, but only 48 percent of people actually fall in this range. Clinical research studies have shown that insufficient sleep can have many negative effects on our health, such as:

  • Contributing to increased caloric intake, which can lead to obesity — In a study conducted by Mayo Clinic researchers, people whose sleep was restricted for eight consecutive days consumed an extra 559 calories per day and gained an average of 1.98 pounds during the eight-day study period.
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease — Mayo Clinic researchers found that people whose sleep was restricted for eight consecutive days also experienced an increase in blood pressure and an increase in heart rate. Related studies have also shown a connection between restricted sleep and an increase in coronary heart disease and stroke.
  • An increased risk of mortality — Studies have shown that people who sleep less than seven hours per night have a 12 to 35 percent greater risk of death compared to people who sleep seven hours per night.

Why a good night’s sleep is so hard to come by

Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t exactly a complicated issue. So why then is lack of sleep becoming the norm in our society? The change is due in large part to our lifestyle, which emphasizes longer work hours, more time spent indoors under artificial lighting, and new technologies that enable and encourage around-the-clock living.

The extent to which the indoor environment impacts our ability to achieve the right quality and quantity of sleep is one area that the Well Living Lab hopes to address in its research. The Lab, a collaboration between Delos and Mayo Clinic, has set out to study how seven key concepts of the indoor environment — air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind — affect the way people live and work indoors, how productive they are, their performance and their overall happiness and satisfaction.

By combining the clinical expertise of the Mayo Clinic team with the design and building sciences expertise of Delos, we will be able to move beyond our current understanding of how sleep affects health. Ultimately, we hope to gain a better understanding of how sleep is influenced by the way our homes, offices and other commercial buildings are designed, and the materials and products we use within them. In addition, we hope to understand how sleep, or lack thereof, affects our productivity and performance at work.

To learn more about the effects of sleep on individual and population health, visit the Mayo Clinic Center for Clinical and Translational Science.