Everyone knows how good it feels to get a good night’s sleep, but new evidence shows how important it can be for cutting risk of stroke and heart disease. For middle-aged adults with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke, it is especially important to get a good night’s sleep as it could cause a high risk for cancer and early death.
This new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the open-access journal of the American Heart Association, outlines the dangers of getting less than six hours of sleep a night. The study analyzed data of more than 1,600 adults, aged 20 to 74 years of age from the Penn State Adult Cohort. All participants were categorized into two groups as having stage 2 high blood pressure, or type 2 diabetes and having heart disease or stroke.
After studying participants in a sleep laboratory for one night, researchers then tracked cause of death up to the end of 2016. They found that of the 512 participants who passed away, one-third died of a stroke or heart disease, and one-fourth died due to cancer.
The participants who had high blood pressure or diabetes who slept less than six hours had twice the increased risk of dying from heart disease or stroke. Those who had heart disease or stroke and got less than six hours of sleep a night experienced three times the increased risk of dying from cancer. The increased risk of early death for those with high blood pressure or diabetes was negligible if they slept for more than six hours.
“Our study suggests that achieving normal sleep may be protective for some people with these health conditions and risks,” said lead study author Julio Fernandez-Mendoza, Ph.D., associate professor at Pennsylvania State College of Medicine and sleep psychologist at the Sleep Research & Treatment Center of the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania. “However, further research is needed to examine whether improving and increasing sleep through medical or behavioral therapies can reduce risk of early death.”
First Night Effect
For this study, the sleep duration was based on participants’ one-night sleep. This could mean that the outcomes may be affected by the first-night effect where participants experience significantly worse sleep the first night in a lab compared to other consecutive nights, which is the type of sleep study routinely used in clinical practices.
“Short sleep duration should be included as a useful risk factor to predict the long-term outcomes of people with these health conditions and as a target of primary and specialized clinical practices,” Fernandez-Mendoza said. “I’d like to see policy changes so that sleep consultations and sleep studies become a more integral part of our healthcare systems. Better identification of people with specific sleep issues would potentially lead to improved prevention, more complete treatment approaches, better long-term outcomes and less healthcare usage.”