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Even with spectacular improvements in healthcare during the past century, disease continues to persist. In many ways, the causes behind this fact are linked to sleep. Sleep is one of the most important factors in good health and longevity. With Americans sleeping about two hours less on average than they did in 1900, one of the reasons for increased disease is apparent.
The study of sleep is a young science. The important modern beginning of the science of sleep began in the 1950s and the basic understanding that there are different stages or types of sleep was learned in the 1960s. During that period there were very few people involved in sleep research. Today, thousands of sleep scientists and healthcare professionals focus on sleep research. There is much yet to learn about why we sleep, the mechanisms of sleep, our internal biological timekeepers, and the impact sleep has on our lives.
The healthiest and longest-lived people sleep about eight hours a night on average. A shorter life span is associated with less than seven and more than nine hours per night average sleep. Less than seven hours is apparently not enough to receive the full health benefits of sleep and sleeping more than nine or ten hours can indicate a sleep disorder that robs the benefit of quality sleep.