Health & Wellbeing

Less than six hours sleep increases death risk from chronic disease

Less than six hours sleep incr...
A new study found subjects suffering from high blood pressure or diabetes did not display increased risk of early death if they slept more than six hours each night
A new study found subjects suffering from high blood pressure or diabetes did not display increased risk of early death if they slept more than six hours each night
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A new study found subjects suffering from high blood pressure or diabetes did not display increased risk of early death if they slept more than six hours each night
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A new study found subjects suffering from high blood pressure or diabetes did not display increased risk of early death if they slept more than six hours each night
Graph showing that for people who slept less than six hours, the risk of early death associated with hypertension or diabetes was two times higher, while the risk of early death associated with heart disease or stroke was three times higher
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Graph showing that for people who slept less than six hours, the risk of early death associated with hypertension or diabetes was two times higher, while the risk of early death associated with heart disease or stroke was three times higher

In the world of sleep science one thing is profoundly clear – most of us need around eight hours every night to maintain optimum physical and mental health. A new study has now found normal sleep duration can reduce some negative effects from heart disease and diabetes, revealing less than six hours a night increases the chances of early death in subjects suffering from some chronic diseases.

We know sleep is important. We also know that for most people the ideal amount of sleep is between seven and eight hours per night. Prior research has found clear evidence that shorter sleep duration can increase a person’s risk in developing a number of chronic health conditions, including heart disease.

This compelling new study from the American Heart Association is suggesting something completely different. The new research indicates normal sleep can potentially be protective for people with certain chronic health ailments, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

Looking at long-term data tracked from over 1,600 subjects the study found substantial negative effects in subjects sleeping less than six hours per night. For example, subjects with high blood pressure or diabetes were twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke if they slept less than six hours a night, compared to similar subjects who slept around eight hours. Short sleepers suffering from heart disease or stroke were also three times more likely to die from cancer.

The results were even more striking when the researchers looked at rates of early death, and found subjects with high blood pressure or diabetes displayed almost no increased risk of early death as long as they slept for more than six hours every night.

Graph showing that for people who slept less than six hours, the risk of early death associated with hypertension or diabetes was two times higher, while the risk of early death associated with heart disease or stroke was three times higher
Graph showing that for people who slept less than six hours, the risk of early death associated with hypertension or diabetes was two times higher, while the risk of early death associated with heart disease or stroke was three times higher

There are, of course, a number of caveats that limit the certainty of the study’s final conclusions. The specifics of each individual’s sleep quality remains unclear, so whether these negative health effects are related to underlying circadian rhythm disruptions or a lack of slow-wave sleep is unknown. The study also attempted to account for other lifestyle variables that could affect sleep duration but the nature of this kind of research will always leave uncertainties in causal determinations. Do people who sleep less than six hours a night simply lead unhealthier lives, meaning it isn’t directly a lack of sleep causing the health detriments?

Either way, it is becoming increasingly clear that a consistent seven to eight hours of sleep each night is vitally important to maintaining good general health. And, if this study can be further validated, sleep could become a fundamental treatment method to benefit a variety of chronic health conditions. Julio Fernandez-Mendoza, from Pennsylvania State College of Medicine and lead author on the new research, recommends sleep hygiene become a core part of general healthcare strategies.

“Short sleep duration should be included as a useful risk factor to predict the long-term outcomes of people with these health conditions and as a target of primary and specialized clinical practices,” says Fernandez-Mendoza. “I’d like to see policy changes so that sleep consultations and sleep studies become a more integral part of our healthcare systems. Better identification of people with specific sleep issues would potentially lead to improved prevention, more complete treatment approaches, better long-term outcomes and less healthcare usage.”

The new research was published in The Journal of the American Heart Association.

Source: American Heart Association

1 comment
Martin Hone
I assume this matches what has been discovered regarding sleep apnea and its influence on these same conditions...