Shorter sleep linked to higher risk of many chronic diseases

Credit: Slumber Sleep Aid/ Unsplash.

A third of US adults report that they usually get less than the recommended amount of sleep.

Not getting enough sleep is linked to many chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression.

In a study from University College London, scientists found that less than five hours of sleep in mid-to-late life could be linked to an increased risk of at least two chronic diseases.

The research analyzed the impact of sleep duration on the health of more than 7,000 men and women at the ages of 50, 60, and 70, from the Whitehall II cohort study.

Researchers examined the relationship between how long each participant slept, mortality, and whether they had been diagnosed with two or more chronic diseases (multimorbidity)—such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes—over the course of 25 years.

People who reported getting five hours of sleep or less at age 50 were 20% more likely to have been diagnosed with a chronic disease and 40% more likely to be diagnosed with two or more chronic diseases over 25 years, compared to people who slept for up to seven hours.

Additionally, sleeping for five hours or less at the age of 50, 60, and 70 was linked to a 30% to 40% increased risk of multimorbidity when compared with those who slept for up to seven hours.

Researchers also found that sleep duration of five hours or less at age 50 was linked to a 25% increased risk of mortality over the 25 years of follow-up—which can mainly be explained by the fact that short sleep duration increases the risk of chronic disease(s) that in turn increase the risk of death.

As part of the study, researchers also assessed whether sleeping for a long duration, of nine hours or more, affected health outcomes.

There was no clear association between long sleep durations at age 50 and multimorbidity in healthy people.

However, if a participant had already been diagnosed with a chronic condition, then long sleep duration was associated with around a 35% increased risk of developing another illness.

Researchers believe this could be due to underlying health conditions impacting sleep.

The team says getting enough sleep allows your body to rest.

There are a host of other ways that poor sleep could increase the risk of heart disease or stroke, including by increasing inflammation and increasing blood pressure.

If you care about sleep apnea, please read studies about a new way to detect sleep apnea, and this drug could help treat insomnia and sleep loss.

For more information about sleep, please see recent studies about how to protect your sleep from insomnia over COVID-19 anxiety, and results showing sleep aids aren’t safe for older adults, but 1 in 3 still take them.

The study was conducted by Dr. Severine Sabia et al and published in PLOS Medicine.

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