Sleeping less than five hours a night increases the risk of chronic diseases, study says
Reviewed study looked at nearly 8,000 British civil service workers over an average period of 25 years, at ages 50, 60 and 70, and found that “short sleep duration is associated with the onset of chronic disease and multimorbidity,” that is, two or more chronic diseases at the same time time.
The study was published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine by research teams from University College London and Université Paris Cité.
It found that at age 50, those who slept five hours or less were 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed with multiple chronic diseases over time, compared to their peers who slept seven hours, said lead author Severine Sabia , researcher in epidemiology and public health. The Washington Post.
At age 60, those who slept five hours or less had a 32 percent higher risk, and at age 70 a 40 percent higher risk, compared to those who slept seven hours. she added.
“As people age, their sleep habits and sleep patterns change. However, it is advisable to sleep 7 to 8 hours a night,” Sabia said in a separate text statement.
“More than half of the elderly now have at least two chronic diseases. This has proven to be a major public health challenge, as multimorbidity is associated with high utilization of health services, hospitalizations and disability,” she said.
The study acknowledges that it has some limitations. It relied on self-reported sleep data and all participants were civil servants, mostly in London, with only a “small proportion of non-whites”, it added.
Regardless of your age, job, or background, sleep experts agree that getting enough sleep is important to you—and that, conversely, worrying too much about your sleep can be counterproductive.
“There is no magic one-size-fits-all sleep schedule,” Neil Stanley, sleep consultant and the author from “How to sleep well,” the Washington Post said Wednesday. “We should look for suitable hours for us.”
A good night’s sleep is essential for physical and mental health, and sleep needs are to some degree “genetically determined” like height or shoe size, Stanley said, imploring people not to feel anxious about hitting the target number of hours.
Quality is also important, he added, because our brains need to enter a deep, restorative stage of sleep known as slow wave sleep. It helps cognitive processes such as memory consolidation, problem solving and removing toxins that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Sleep needs also vary with age, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Babies under one year of age may need up to 16 hours of sleep a day, while teenagers need up to 10 hours, and adults and the elderly need seven or more hours a day.
The author of the Sabia study advises that good sleep hygiene can to promote better sleep. Such habits may include ensuring silence in the bedroom, dark and comfortable temperatures, removing electronic devices and avoiding large meals before bed.
“Physical activity and exposure to light during the day can also promote good sleep,” she added.
For insomniacs and those who find it difficult to nod off – Stanley suggests not “overcomplicating” things. Human beings have been falling asleep “for millions of years—we’ve never needed lotions, potions or self-help books to fall asleep,” he jokes.
Mostly, people just need a quiet room and a “quiet mind” to sleep well, he added. “Put your cares and worries to bed before you get into it.”
Professor of circadian neuroscience and the author Russell Foster agrees that sleep is “extremely important” and urges those concerned about the number of hours they are getting to accept that there is “individual variation” in sleep habits and duration. The acid test is really how well we perform when we’re awake, he told The Post.
If we are able to function, solve problems and self-reflect, then we probably have enough sleep for us, Foster said. If you need to set multiple alarms, feel tired, irritable or impulsive, crave a nap or caffeine, or have noticed a change in behavior, then these are common culprits for not getting enough sleep.
While a “golden number of sleep” may exist, it is likely based on the individual, he added, and “will change and change as we age.”
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