A new study suggests that people over 50 who sleep less than five hours a day are more likely to develop chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Researchers examined the data of 7,864 British civil servants aged 50, 60, and 70. They published their findings in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS Medicine on October 18.
During the study, participants’ sleep time was measured over a period of 25 years, and its association with multimorbidity was investigated. Multimorbidity was defined as the presence of two or more chronic diseases out of a list of 13 possible chronic illnesses.
Researchers used a multistate model to determine whether sleep duration at age 50 affects a chronic disease’s progression. They investigated the progression from a healthy state to a chronic disease state, multiple morbidities, and death.
The study found that participants with five hours or less of sleep at age 50 had a 20 percent increased risk of developing chronic diseases. They also have a similar or higher risk of being diagnosed with two or more chronic diseases over the next 25 years compared to those with up to seven hours of sleep.
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Multimorbidity rates increased by 30% to 40% in people who slept less than five hours at the age of 50, 60, and 70.
According to the study, short sleep duration is associated with the onset of chronic diseases and multimorbidity. However, a consistent association between mortality and short sleep was not found during the research.
Accordingly, other studies that have reported a correlation between short sleep and mortality are likely to be explained by the association between short sleep and chronic diseases that are associated with mortality risks.
People’s sleeping habits and sleep structures change as they age.
The study’s lead author, Dr Severine Sabia, recommended sleeping for 7 to 8 hours a night. Sleep durations below or above these have previously been associated with individual chronic diseases.
Keeping your bedroom quiet, dark, and at a comfortable temperature are steps you can take to help you get better sleep, said Dr Sabia.
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In her opinion, avoiding using electronic devices and having large meals before bedtime is also vital for sound sleep. Dr Sabia added that physical exercise and exposure to light during the day could also promote sleep.