By Pure Matters
The study found that men who reported having insomnia or who slept for short periods of time were more likely to die over a 14-year period than men who slept well.
"Insomnia has potentially very severe side effects," says study co-author Edward Bixler, Ph.D. "It needs to be treated, and more effort needs to be put into sorting out better treatments."
How Much Sleep Are You Really Getting?
Previous research has looked at sleep's effects on lifespan, but the new study is unique. It takes into account both people's perceptions about how much sleep they are getting - which can be wrong - and the actual amount of sleep they got in a sleep lab.
Dr. Bixler and his colleagues studied 1,700 people from central Pennsylvania and followed the men (average age 50) for 14 years and the women (average age 47) for a decade.
The participants answered questions and spent a night in a sleep lab.
About a fifth of the men died during the study period, while 5 percent of the women died.
Dr. Bixler says one factor may be because women live longer than men and the study followed women for a shorter period.
The research team adjusted for factors such as sleep apnea. They found that self-described male insomniacs who slept fewer than six hours in the sleep lab were several times more likely to die during the 14-year period compared to "good sleepers."
Among men, about 9 percent of good sleepers died during the study period, compared to more than half -- 51 percent -- of insomniacs with short sleep duration.
Of all the people in the study, 8 percent of women and 4 percent of men both reported insomnia and had trouble getting much sleep in the lab.
Sleep's Role Requires More Study
Some evidence suggests lack of sleep may contribute to cardiovascular disease or disrupt the immune system, says Dr. B. Tucker Woodson, chief of the division of sleep medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
The researchers say that the study does not definitively prove that poor sleep will directly cause a man to die earlier, and that there could be other factors at play.
As for women, they are not in the clear, notes Dr. Bixler. Since they live longer, it may take a study of a longer duration to figure out whether they suffer from a similar effect.
Sleep experts agree that the relationship between a good night's sleep and length of life is important to understand and needs more study.
Always consult with your physician or other healthcare provider for more information.
Always consult your physician for more information.
More Facts about Insomnia
If you experience difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or enjoying a restful night's sleep, you may be suffering from insomnia.
Symptoms of insomnia include:
- daytime sleepiness
- low energy or fatigue
- anxiety or frustration about sleep
- attention, concentration or memory problems
- waking up tired or in pain
Tips that may help sleep problems:
- Get up about the same time every day.
- Go to bed only when you are sleepy and get out of bed when you are awake.
- Establish pre-sleep rituals, such as a warm bath, a light bedtime snack, brushing teeth, putting on bedtime clothing, or 10 minutes of reading.
- Exercise regularly. If you exercise vigorously, do this at least 3 to 6 hours before bedtime. Mild exercise - such as simple stretching or walking -- should not be done closer to bedtime than 4 hours.
- Maintain a regular schedule. Regular times for meals, taking medications, doing chores, and other activities help keep your "inner clock" running smoothly.
- Avoid anything containing caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol within several hours of bedtime or when you are sleepy.
- Avoid smoking close to bedtime because nicotine is a stimulant.
- Avoid falling asleep in front of the television.
- If you take naps, try to do so at the same time every day. For most people, a short mid-afternoon nap is most helpful.
- Avoid sleeping pills or use them conservatively. Most physicians avoid prescribing sleeping pills for a period of longer than 3 weeks. Never drink alcohol while taking sleeping pills.
- Reduce evening light exposure by turning off bright lights. This may help cue the body and mind for sleep.
- Expose yourself to light (through windows or a timed lamp) 30 minutes before waking to prepare for getting out of bed.
- Make your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. If possible, remove non-sleep related items such as televisions or computers so that the room is associated only with sleep.