Chronic Disease and Poor Sleep Could Be A Deadly Mix

The importance of getting enough sleep is no big secret to most of us. It is crucial for physical rejuvenation and for de-cluttering the brain.  Deep, full-cycle sleep promotes the release of hormones that aid in cellular repair and building new tissue for the body and the brain.  But while the precise the number of hours for optimal rest may not always be the same for everyone, a new study advises that less than six hours a night, consistently, might be dangerous for certain people. 

Essentially, if you are a middle-aged adult with hypertension or type-2 diabetes, or heart disease, getting consistently less than six hours of sleep per night could have extremely detrimental effects on your health. In fact, it could lead to early death. Specifically, the study says that these conditions coupled with poor sleep habits could, indeed, increase cancer risk or early death from heart disease. 

Lead study author Dr. Julio Fernandez-Mendoza comments, “Our study suggests that achieving normal sleep may be protective for some people with these health conditions and risks.  However, further research is needed to examine whether improving and increasing sleep through medical or behavioral therapies can reduce risk of early death.”

The study involved 16,000 adults between the ages of 20 and 74.  These subjects had their sleep quality tested at the onset of the study and then followed and analyzed for 20 years. By the end of the time-frame, the study identified that those with high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes who also consistently logged less than six hours of sleep were twice as likely to die from stroke or heart disease.  

This is particularly disheartening news for the 45 percent of American adults who have already been diagnosed with either type-2 diabetes or stage-2 high blood pressure (or both).  

Dr. Fernandez-Mendoza is a Pennsylvania State College of Medicine associate professor of psychiatry as well as a sleep psychologist at the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. He goes on to say, “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.”

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