Insomnia could put you in an early grave

You wake up once to use the bathroom... and then again because of your aches and pains... and once more for a glass of water.

As we age, there are sure a lot of "stopovers" in what used to be a "direct flight" from bedtime to morning!

Waking up more often during the night is common as you get older, but if your frequent stirring starts to add up to chronic sleeplessness, you may be setting your body up for a dangerous crash.

We already know that over time, getting less than the recommended seven hours of sleep each night can increase your risk of diabetes, stroke, and dementia. Not only that, it can throw your gut bacteria out of whack, and it can also add pounds to your waistline.

But according to the latest research, those restless nights aren't just hazardous to your health. They may be DEADLY.

In fact, sleeping less than six hours each night -- just an hour less than the recommended number of winks -- can DOUBLE your risk of dying from heart disease or a stroke.

And that's especially true if you've got metabolic syndrome -- meaning you have at least three risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, obesity, high levels of "bad" (LDL) cholesterol, or high blood sugar.

In the study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers randomly selected 1,300 adults to spend one night in a sleep lab and then followed them for 16 years.

By the end of the study, 22 percent of them had died -- and the amount of sleep they had gotten in the sleep lab was tied to their risk of death.

Those with metabolic syndrome who slept less than six hours in the lab were TWO TIMES more likely to die of heart disease or stroke, compared to those without metabolic syndrome.

The metabolic syndrome participants who got more than six hours of shuteye had better survival odds, though they were still 1.5 times more likely to die than healthier subjects.

The bottom line is that no matter what, metabolic syndrome makes you more likely to die of ANY cause, but sleep deprivation may put the nail in the coffin.

Now, this was an observational study, so there's no proof of cause and effect. We don't know if lack of sufficient sleep causes premature death or if it's just another warning sign of poor health.

But given how much chronic sleeplessness can throw your body into disarray, I recommend erring on the side of caution and finding natural ways to sleep more soundly.

Try taking melatonin supplements -- because our bodies produce less of this natural "sleep hormone" as we age, and it can help you fall asleep AND get back to sleep faster after a wakeup.

Also, supplements of the amino acid 5-HTP can regulate your brain's serotonin levels so you have less "turbulence" in your slumber.