Sufficient and good sleep is important for health. Researchers have now discovered that five sleep factors actually prolong life.
Sleep disorders are common. About a third of Americans have problems falling asleep and staying asleep, and one in ten Americans even suffers from a sleep disorder that requires treatment, according to the Americans Society for Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine. Trouble getting a good night’s sleep can have far more far-reaching consequences than just not being rested the next morning.
Chronic lack of sleep increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, stroke , heart attack, diabetes, dementia and mental disorders, among other things. Not only the duration, but also the quality of sleep plays a role. If you have a healthy sleep pattern, you can even extend your life.
This is the conclusion of a study by US scientists, which will soon be presented at a congress of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) with the World Heart Federation (World Heart Federation). Men benefit from healthy sleep even more than women. They can extend their lives by almost five years, females by about two and a half years.
For their analysis, the researchers evaluated the data of over 170,000 people. They were on average 50 years old. All had participated in a survey by the US agency “Centers for Disease Control” (“Centers for Disease Control and Prevention”) between 2013 and 2018 .
Questions about sleep and sleeping habits were also answered. Almost 8,700 subjects died during that time, allowing scientists to establish a link between death and sleep quality. About every third death (30 percent) was due to cancer, 24 percent to cardiovascular disease. 46 percent were due to other causes.
Researchers evaluated five different factors as indicators of sleep quality:
- an ideal sleep duration of seven to eight hours per night
- Difficulty falling asleep no more than twice a week
- Insomnia at most twice a week
- no sleeping pills were used
- upon waking, the subject felt well rested at least five days a week
Each of these factors was assigned points from one to eight.
The result: if you sleep well, you live longer
Among participants who reported meeting all five criteria for good sleep, life expectancy was 4.7 years longer for men and 2.4 years longer for women than those who met none or only one of the five factors.
The researchers also included other factors that can increase the risk of death in their analysis – such as a lower socioeconomic status, smoking and alcohol consumption and other diseases.
As a result, people with the best sleep quality compared to those with very poor sleep quality were likely to
- dying for any reason, 30 percent less,
- 21 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease
- 40 percent less likely to die from cancer and
- dying from other causes (such as accidents, infections or neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease) by 40 percent less.
Not just the duration but the quality of sleep plays a role
“We found a clear dose-response relationship. The more beneficial factors someone has in terms of better sleep quality, the lower their cardiovascular mortality from all causes,” said Frank Qian, resident physician in internal medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and co-author of the study in a press release. “I think these results underscore that just getting enough hours of sleep isn’t enough. You really need to be getting restful sleep and not having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.”
If people slept ideally, they would be more likely to live longer, Qian said. “If we can improve sleep overall, for which detecting sleep disorders is particularly important, we may be able to partially prevent premature mortality.”
Why men benefit more from good sleep than women and thus have twice the life expectancy of women with the same quality of sleep needs further research.
The authors themselves point out the limitations in their study: The sleeping habits were self-reported by the participants and were not objectively measured or verified. Additionally, no information was available about what types of sleep aids or medications were used, or how often or for how long participants used them.
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- American College of Cardiology: “Getting Good Sleep Could Add Years to Your Life” (23.02.2023)
- German Society for Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine: “Disorders of falling asleep and staying asleep” (09/21/2021)