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Too much or too little sleep linked to chronic diseases

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Getting too much or not enough sleep linked to higher risk of chronic diseases

A new study shows that too much or too little sleep puts those 45 years and older at an increased risk for developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and anxiety.
Too much sleep is 10 hours or more, and too little sleep is 6 hours, according to the study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published in the October issue of the journal SLEEP.

"Some of the relationships between unhealthy sleep durations and chronic diseases were partially explained by frequent mental distress and obesity," reports co-author Dr. Janet B. Croft, a senior chronic disease epidemiologist in the Division of Population Health at the CDC.

Accordingly, Croft says doctors treating patients with chronic diseases should consider monitoring their mental health, body weight and quality of sleep.

For the study, CDC researchers examined data for more than 54,000 people across 14 states who were aged 45 years and older, which revealed that 31% of them were "short sleepers" who only got an average of 6 hours of sleep or less during a 24-hour period. More than 65% were "optimal sleepers" who slept 6 to 9 hours on average, and the remaining 4% were "long sleepers" who got an average of 10 hours of sleep or more per night.

After analyzing all the data, the researchers found that compared to optimal sleepers, short sleepers were more likely to suffer more from chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, mental distress and obesity.

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The same was true for those who slept 10 hours or more too, although long sleepers tended to have even more coronary heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

"Sleeping longer doesn't necessarily mean you're sleeping well," commented Dr. M. Safwan Badr, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), who says people should understand how sleep affects their health, and that a healthy lifestyle is not just diet and exercise, but about quality sleep as well.

"It's critical that adults aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to receive the health benefits of sleep, but this is especially true for those battling a chronic condition," he says, adding that those with chronic diseases frequently suffer from common sleep conditions, such as sleep apnea and insomnia, which affects their ability to get a good night's sleep.

Dr. Badr says that if you wake up feeling exhausted, you should see your doctor to find out if you have a sleep problem.

"If you are diagnosed with a sleep illness, treating it could significantly improve disease symptoms and your quality of life."

SOURCE: Sleep duration and chronic diseases among US adults age 45 years and older: evidence from the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System; Liu Y; Wheaton AG; Chapman DP; Croft JB.; SLEEP 2013, Vol 36, Issue 10, 1421-1427; DOI:10.5665/sleep.3028; Abstract.