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Good sleep patterns can help a person live longer, study suggests

Men who met all five beneficial factors of sleep patterns were said to live up to 4.7 years longer, for women it was 2.4 years.

BOSTON — Getting a good night sleep can help you live longer, according to a new study from researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

The study looked at the answers from more than 172,000 respondents relating to their sleep patterns from a CDC Health Interview survey that spanned the years 2013 to 2018. The study tracked mortality rates of those responding through 2019.

Experts recommend that adults aged 18–60 years get at least seven hours of sleep at night. But this study went further than sleep duration. The questions posed to the respondents were about sleep patterns and not just how many hours of sleep a night a person gets.

"The reason we did that was because the main recommendations for what we call healthy amount of sleep is only looking at sleep duration," said Dr. Frank Qian, an internal resident medical physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and co-author of the study.

The study focused on five different beneficial factors of sleep:

  1. How long did you sleep?
  2. Did you have difficulty falling asleep more than twice a week?
  3. Were you able to stay asleep?
  4. Did you use sleep medications?
  5. Did you feel restful when you woke up at least five days a week?

Each factor was assigned either a zero or one point, for a maximum of five points, which indicates the highest quality sleep.

"What we found is all of these factors are independently related to mortality," Qian said.

The more factors a person meets, the lower their risk of an early death. The fewer factors met, the greater the risk.

Qian said his team determined that men lived an average of 4.7 years longer when they met all five factors, compared to 2.7 years for women.

There are a few possibilities for that difference, Qian said.

"One thought I had was perhaps sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, is just much more prevalent in men," he said. "The other thing would be women on average have a lot higher life expectancy than men."

Click here to read the release of the study's findings.

"For the analysis, researchers controlled for other factors that may have heightened the risk of dying, including lower socioeconomic status, smoking and alcohol consumption and other medical conditions," said an announcement of the study's findings. "Compared to individuals who had zero to one favorable sleep factors, those who had all five were 30% less likely to die for any reason, 21% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, 19% less likely to die from cancer, and 40% less likely to die of causes other than heart disease or cancer. Qian said these other deaths are likely due to accidents, infections or neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease, but more research is needed."

During the period of answers and records from the National Death Index through 2019 that were studied, 8,681 people who responded had died. 

"Participants were followed for a median of 4.3 years during which time 8,681 individuals died. Of these deaths, 2,610 deaths (30%) were from cardiovascular disease, 2,052 (24%) were from cancer and 4,019 (46%) were due to other causes," the announcement of the study's findings said.

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