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Lack of sleep linked to greater risk of comorbid disease

Researchers have confirmed that not sleep can negatively impact long-term health. During a 25-year study led by University College London (UCL), experts gathered self-reported data from 7,000 men and women aged 50, 60, and 70. The data included how much sleep the participants got, their death rate, and whether they had been diagnosed with more than one disease (multimorbidity). 

The analysis revealed that people who slept for five hours or less at age 50 were 20 percent more likely to be diagnosed with a chronic disease, and 40 percent more likely to be diagnosed with two or more chronic conditions over the course of 25 years, when compared with those who received up to seven hours of sleep. 

Among the sleep deprived group, the rate of mortality also increased by 25 percent. When all ages were combined, those who received less than five hours of sleep were 30 to 40 percent more likely to experience multimorbidity.

“Multimorbidity is on the rise in high income countries and more than half of older adults now have at least two chronic diseases. This is proving to be a major challenge for public health, as multimorbidity is associated with high healthcare service use, hospitalisations and disability,” said study lead author Dr. Severine Sabia.

“As people get older, their sleep habits and sleep structure change. However, it is recommended to sleep for 7 to 8 hours a night – as sleep durations above or below this have previously been associated with individual chronic diseases.”

The researchers did not find any significant benefit to getting nine or more hours of sleep per night. 

“Our findings show that short sleep duration is also associated with multimorbidity,” said Dr. Sabia. “To ensure a better night’s sleep, it is important to promote good sleep hygiene, such as making sure the bedroom is quiet, dark and a comfortable temperature before sleeping. It’s also advised to remove electronic devices and avoid large meals before bedtime. Physical activity and exposure to light during the day might also promote good sleep.”

“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,” said Jo Whitmore, a senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation.

“This research adds to a growing body of research that highlights the importance of getting a good night’s sleep.”

This research is published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

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By Erin Moody , Staff Writer

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