More and more research is showing that getting enough sleep, once considered an indulgence available to a fortunate few, is really quite vital for both our mental and physical well being, as lack of sleep effects can be deadly serious.
A pair of new studies suggest that chronic poor sleep boosts your odds of dying early, which is worrisome enough without the results of a third study that found more than half of older Americans aren’t getting the amount of sleep they need.
All three studies were presented at the June 10th session of the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Society, SLEEP 2009, held this year in Seattle, Washington.
The first study, conducted by an association of experts, found that death rates were higher among those who had what’s known as fragmented sleep – more transitions between the known stages of sleep.
Over the 8 year study period, those with more fragmented sleep had a risk of death that was 5% higher than those who slept peacefully.
The two transitions most closely linked to increased death risk were the wake-to-non-REM and REM-to-wake shifts in sleeping stages.
Until this research, there had been little work in the area of sleep fragmentation, though one study found sleep-disordered breathing, a contributor to sleep fragmentation, brought an increased risk of premature death.
Still it’s impossible to tell what underlying conditions might be behind these types of sleep disturbances.
Those who are ill, for example, might have disturbed sleep patterns, but is this the cause of their problems, or the problems the case of the fragmented sleep?
The second study, conducted by the Penn State College of Medicine, looked at subjects with insomnia who slept less than 6 hours and found they were at an increased risk of death compared to those who slept longer.
The work involved almost 2,000 men and women who were first examined in a sleep lab and then followed for over a decade.
Here’s what they found – males with insomnia who slept from 5-6 hours a night had five times the risk of death as opposed to those who slept 6 (or more) hours each night.
Women with insomnia also had a higher risk, though the numbers didn’t reach a statistically significant level.
Earlier work in this area has linked less sleep with health conditions such as high blood pressure, as well as other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
The third and final study presented at SLEEP 2009 comes from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and was based on a survey of more than 1,500 adults over 60.
This work found that less than half the adults in this age group are getting the recommended eight hours of sleep each night. Only 61% reported it took them less than 15 minutes to fall to sleep.
Subjects who had depressive symptoms, were unmarried, black more educated or earned more experienced poorer sleep, reporting that they felt less alert during the day.
While medications to treat insomnia are sometimes an option, better, more effective results come from cognitive behavioral therapy – helping patients to recognize what’s really keeping them from sleep and develop strategies to deal with these stressors.
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A Trio Of Studies Show Just How Vital A Good Night’s Sleep Can Be continued…
Relaxation techniques can also be helpful for getting people to relax enough to go to sleep, or return to sleep if they wake during the night.
The largest population based study on sleep finds 6 to 8 hours a night seems to help people live the longest.
If you find that you’re having trouble getting enough sleep, mention this to your doctor so that other health problems or side effects from medications you take might be ruled out first.
You’ll also want to make an effort to establish a healthy sleeping routine, choose a comfortable, sleep-inducing location, and practice relaxation techniques to help you ease into a relaxed, restful, ready for sleep state to avoid those worrisome lack of sleep effects.
To your good health,
Daily Health Bulletin Editor