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Research: Good quality sleep boosts life expectancy

Just sleeping for a given number of hours is not sufficient. It is additionally important to have a restful sleep.

Passengers on the five-hour bus journey either use it to take in some of the sights of Hong Kong or get some much-needed sleep — © AFP Bertha WANG
Passengers on the five-hour bus journey either use it to take in some of the sights of Hong Kong or get some much-needed sleep — © AFP Bertha WANG

Getting good sleep could add years to your life, according to a new study. This is based on an assessment of five low-risk sleep habits that have been demonstrated to provide long-term benefits. This relates to research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific session.

Medical data indicates that young people who have more beneficial sleep habits are incrementally less likely to die early. In addition, the analysis finds that about 8 percent of deaths from any cause are attributed to poor sleep patterns, especially in relation to cardiovascular mortality.

However, just sleeping for a given number of hours is not sufficient. It is additionally important to have a restful sleep. This extends to easily falling to sleep and continually staying asleep.

These insights are drawn from an assessment of data from 172,321 people (average age 50) who participated in the U.S. National Health Interview Survey, conducted between 2013 and 2018. The researchers examined the association between individual and combined sleep factors and all-cause and cause-specific mortality.

Each participant was followed for around four years, during which time 8,681 individuals died. Of these deaths, 2,610 deaths (30 percent) were from cardiovascular disease, 2,052 (24 percent) were from cancer and 4,019 (46 percent) were due to other causes. The data was compared with various factors connected to the quality sleep. This was performed using a low-risk sleep score, made up of:

  1. Ideal sleep duration of seven to eight hours a night.
  2. Difficulty falling asleep no more than two times a week.
  3. Trouble staying asleep no more than two times a week.
  4. Not using any sleep medication.
  5. Feeling well rested after waking up at least five days a week.

Each factor was assigned zero or one point for each, for a maximum of five points, which indicated the highest quality sleep. Other factors that could have heightened the risk of dying, including lower socioeconomic status, smoking and alcohol consumption and other medical conditions, were controlled for.

Compared to individuals who had zero to one favourable sleep factors, those people who had all five were 30 percent less likely to die for any reason, 21 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, 19 percent less likely to die from cancer, and 40 percent less likely to die of causes other than heart disease or cancer. Here, life expectancy was 4.7 years greater for men and 2.4 years greater for women compared with those who had none or only one of the five favourable elements of low-risk sleep. The main limitation with the study is that sleep habits were self-reported and not objectively measured or verified.

The researchers concluded they can improve sleep overall, and by identifying sleep disorders, it should be possible to prevent premature mortality.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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