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Sleep Duration Linked to Chronic Conditions

Diane Fennell

October 18, 2013

We have previously written about the connection between sleep and health, including the role of sleep apnea in Type 2 diabetes, the importance of sleep for heart health, and the link between poor sleep and diabetes control. Now a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) further underscores the association, finding that too much or too little sleep is linked to a variety of chronic health conditions.

To determine how sleep duration is related to obesity, anxiety, coronary heart disease, and diabetes, researchers looked at data from 54,269 adults age 45 or older who had completed the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey (a public health telephone survey) in 14 states. Thirty-one percent of the participants were short sleepers, getting six or less hours of sleep on average, 64% were optimal sleepers, getting seven to nine hours, and 4% were long sleepers, getting ten or more hours.

The researchers found that both short and long sleepers had an increased incidence of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, as well as obesity and frequent mental distress, compared to the optimal sleepers. The associations with heart disease, stroke, and diabetes were even more pronounced among those who slept 10 or more hours a night than among those who slept too little.

According to M. Safwan Badr, MD, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), those who sleep more aren’t necessarily sleeping well.

“It’s critical that adults aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night to receive the health benefits of sleep, but this is especially true for those battling a chronic condition,” he noted. “A healthy, balanced lifestyle is not limited to diet and fitness; when and how you sleep is just as important as what you eat or how you exercise.”

The AASM encourages those dealing with chronic health conditions to have their sleep patterns evaluated by a sleep medicine physician. According to Badr, “If you are diagnosed with a sleep illness, treating it could significantly improve disease symptoms and your quality of life.”

For more information, read the article “Sleeping Too Little, or Too Much, Linked to Heart Disease, Diabetes Obesity,” or see the study’s abstract in the journal SLEEP. And to learn more about getting the sleep you need, see this article by nurse David Spero.



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