03/04/2015 03:51 pm ET Updated May 04, 2015

Too Little Sleep Could Kill You?

rubberball via Getty Images

A recent study suggests that people who sleep more than eight hours a night may have an increased risk of stroke. The rash conclusion made by some headline writers -- that too much sleep could kill you -- goes against everything we know to be true about sleep.

Sleeping more than eight hours has never been proven to be a cause of poor health. A more likely explanation is that excessive sleep could indicate an underlying health problem, like heart disease, diabetes or sleep apnea, which actually do increase your risk of stroke.

Abundant evidence indicates that not getting enough sleep is the real danger to your health and safety. The quality and quantity of your nightly sleep affects every aspect of your health. Simply missing one night of sleep can lead to decreased cognitive function, trouble concentrating, headaches and general moodiness. It also increases your risk of drowsy driving and workplace accidents.

Sleep deficiency can alter activity in some parts of the brain so people may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Physically, chronic sleep loss puts people in much greater risk of serious health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

If you're in overall good health and getting seven to nine hours of healthy sleep, keep doing what you're doing and don't worry about sleep causing adverse health effects. Studies that link "too much sleep" to poor health consequences shouldn't influence you to sleep less. However, if you sleep more than nine hours a night, never feel refreshed after a full night of sleep, or suddenly begin sleeping much more than in the past, talk to your doctor and find out why.

Sleep is a blessing, not a curse, and it is one of the keys to a healthy life. You can go to bed tonight with peace of mind as you enjoy a good night of sleep.