Today’s Headlines: Sleep, Running and Sports

New sleep guidelines indicate how long you should sleep. We all know that getting a good amount of shut-eye each night is good for us, but the National Sleep Foundation has looked at all the available research and used it to figure out how long people of different ages should be sleeping. “Experts focused on sleep’s impact on a range of health outcomes, including memory, mood, performance, and also health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. While authors of the study recognize there may be outliers, these recommendations apply for the majority of Americans.” The authors say teens tend to be at the highest risk of sleep deprivation, but also not that the CDC has said 50 to 70 million people are regularly sleep deprived. “The NSF panel also added two new categories, younger adults, ages 18-25 and older adults, over the age of 65.” Those between 18 and 64 should get between seven and nine hours. Those over 65, who naturally tend to sleep less, should aim for seven to eight hours of sleep. (CBS)

Slow, occasional runners reap major health benefits. It can be tempting to focus on the elite marathoners running below five-minute miles as the peak of fitness. But new research is indicating that slow and more occasional runners may be the ones reaping huge health benefits. “Researchers analyzed information from about 1,000 healthy joggers ages 20 to 86, and about 400 people who were healthy, but did not jog, and sat most of the day. The analysis showed that light joggers were less likely to die over the 12-year study than those who were sedentary. ‘Light joggers’ were defined as those who ran at a speed of about 5 mph (12 minutes per mile) a few times a week, for less than 2.5 hours per week total.” The faster runners ran beyond 5 miles per hour, the higher the risk of death seemed to rise again. “The finding suggests there may be an upper limit for exercise dosing that is optimal for health benefits. If your goal is to decrease risk of death and improve life expectancy, jogging a few times a week at a moderate pace is a good strategy.” The results suggest that faster running may be harmful in some way, but the research team emphasizes the need for more research to understand if and why that might be the case. (Fox)

Your sleep schedule may determine your athletic performance. Feeling sleepy on race day might not be the best thing for performance, but a new study out this week has found that when you normally get up may play a critical role in game time success. “Researchers analyzed the lifestyles of field hockey and squash players using detailed surveys and diary entries. Based on the athletes’ natural circadian rhythms, or internal clocks, the researchers classified those who naturally rise and sleep early as ‘larks,’ those who do the opposite as ‘owls,’ and the rest as intermediates. The scientists then conducted a cardiovascular fitness test six times a day on the players. As expected, the larks performed best around noon, the intermediates in late afternoon and the owls in the evening. More intriguingly, when the scientists tracked the players’ performances according to their internal biological time instead of real clock time, they found that the larks and the intermediates shared the same pattern: Both peaked about six hours after they woke up. The owls, on the other hand, hit their sweet spot 11 hours after their day started.” The researchers think the effect may have to do with when cortisol is produced, which depends on sleep patterns. They also say that peak performance time can be adjusted by switching yourself to a sleep schedule more consistent with when your race or game would be starting. (Washington Post)