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High quality sleep increases life expectancy

According to a new study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session Together with the World Congress of Cardiology, getting good sleep might play a key role in protecting against cardiovascular and other types of diseases, and possibly even influence life expectancy. The experts found that about eight percent of deaths from any cause could be attributed to poor sleep patterns, and that young people who have better sleep habits are incrementally less likely to die prematurely. 

“We saw a clear dose-response relationship, so the more beneficial factors someone has in terms of having higher quality of sleep, they also have a stepwise lowering of all cause and cardiovascular mortality,” said study co-author Frank Qian, an internal medicine resident physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and clinical fellow in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “I think these findings emphasize that just getting enough hours of sleep isn’t sufficient. You really have to have restful sleep and not have much trouble falling and staying asleep.”

The scientists analyzed data from 172,321 participants in the National Health Interview Survey between 2013 and 2018 (average age 50, 54 percent women, two-thirds White, 14.5 percent Hispanic, 12.6 percent Black, and 5.5 percent Asian). By linking the participants to the National Death Index records, the researchers were able to investigate the association between individual and combined sleep factors and all-cause and cause-specific mortality. During the period that participants were followed (4.3 years), 8,681 individuals died (30 percent from cardiovascular disease, 24 percent from cancer and 46 percent due to other causes).

In order to determine the relationship between sleep quality and health/life expectancy, the researchers assessed five different factors of quality sleep: ideal sleep duration (seven to eight hours per night); difficulty falling asleep less than two times per week; trouble staying asleep less than two times per week; not using any sleep medication; and feeling rested after waking up at least five days per week.

The analysis revealed that, compared to participants who had zero to one favorable sleep factors, those who had all five were 30 percent less likely to die for any reason, 21 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular issues, 19 percent less likely to die from cancer, and 40 percent less likely to die from other causes (such as accidents, infections, or neurodegenerative conditions). Surprisingly, among men and women who reported having all five quality sleep measures, life expectancy was 4.7 years greater for men and only 2.4 years greater for women compared to those with none or only one of the factors. Further research is needed to explore these sex differences.

“Even from a young age, if people can develop these good sleep habits of getting enough sleep, making sure they are sleeping without too many distractions and have good sleep hygiene overall, it can greatly benefit their overall long-term health. It’s important for younger people to understand that a lot of health behaviors are cumulative over time. Just like we like to say, ‘it’s never too late to exercise or stop smoking,’ it’s also never too early. And we should be talking about and assessing sleep more often,” Qian concluded.


By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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