Too much sleep is bad for you, so stay up and watch more telly

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Sleep­ing for fewer than six hours a night is not good for you, but we have known this for years. The sur­pris­ing new find­ing from the Chi­nese Academy of Med­i­cal Sciences is that sleep­ing too much is worse. Be­tween eight and nine hours a night in­creases your risk of heart dis­ease by 5%; sleep more than 10 hours and your risk goes up by 41%.

I would raise a lay per­son’s hand and say: maybe the study was con­founded by the fact that, if you sleep for more than 10 hours, there is some­thing wrong with you al­ready, some weltschmerz, some de­sire not to be awake, that in­creases your risk of dis­ease at the level of the soul. But that would prob­a­bly be an­noy­ing to the sci­en­tists, who surely ad­justed for soul.

This news is sur­pris­ing be­cause we as­sume that any­thing we mean to do yet don’t must be bet­ter for us than the thing we end up do­ing. Ev­ery­one means to go to bed ear­lier. Ev­ery­one means to get bet­ter at man­ag­ing their time, so they are not shak­ing them­selves awake at 6.45am be­cause they for­got to put a wash on. Ergo, there must be an al­ter­na­tive uni­verse where our bet­ter selves are liv­ing, where we fol­low through on our res­o­lu­tions and end up health­ier.

But what if our delin­quent spir­its know best? What if the voice telling you to stay up and watch an­other episode of 24, which you have al­ready seen and can’t com­pletely fol­low, is ac­tu­ally more plugged in to your phys­i­cal needs? What if the ar­chi­tec­ture of self-care is built on self-doubt, a nag­ging sense that, if you felt like do­ing it, it was prob­a­bly wrong?

This could turn sci­en­tific in­quiry on its head. I am look­ing for­ward to the study that finds star­ing out of the win­dow eat­ing liquorice all­sorts is a pro­phy­lac­tic against cancer.

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