People over the age of 50 who get little sleep are more likely to develop depression, dementia, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, among others.
Getting a good night’s sleep is often associated with physical and mental health benefits. A study published Tuesday (10/18) in the journal PLoS Medicine provides evidence that people aged 50 and over who sleep five hours or less are at increased risk of developing chronic diseases later in life.
Researchers from University College London (UCL) in the UK and Paris City University in France analyzed data on the health and sleep quality of 7,864 UK government employees, aged 50 to 70, who were given follow-up for almost 25 years.
All participants answered the question: “How many hours do you sleep on average each night during the week?”. Between 1985 and 2016, sleep duration was measured at least six times, with data taken at ages 50, 60 and 70.
On average, people in their 50s who slept five hours or less a night were 20% more likely to develop a chronic disease in subsequent years compared to people who slept seven hours.
An increased risk of depression, dementia, mental disorders, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, COPD, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, and arthritis.
Sleep restriction at age 50 has also been linked to a 30% increased risk of developing two or more diseases (multiple diseases), respectively. At 60 years the risk increases to 32% and at 70 to 40%.
“We found a strong association with sleep duration of less than five hours at ages 50, 60, and 70 years, with increased risk of multiple diseases,” the study authors wrote.
The study is observational, based on traffic data. It does not prove a cause and effect relationship, but it does prove an important relationship between the habit of sleeping poorly and the appearance of chronic diseases.