Sleeping To Live: Why Six Is The Magic Number

We know that the elderly generally sleep better than the young, but you have to live long enough to get to that restful period.  Men suffering from insomnia are significantly more likely to die early according to a new study published in the journal Sleep. Six is the magic number of hours of sleep you need per night. Though the authors studied women as well, they found no such connection between insomnia with short sleep duration and mortality.

The researchers recruited 741 men and 1,000 women to participate in the study. The participants filled out a questionnaire about their sleep habits, including whether they had sleep problems, as well as the average duration of their nightly slumbers. Insomnia was defined as having trouble sleeping for greater than a year, and a sleep of fewer than six hours was considered to be of short duration. After collecting these data, the researchers conducted full physicals and sleep evaluations on each subject to identify other health factors to take into account in their final analysis. They then tracked the deaths of male participants for 14 years and female participants for 10 years.

During the follow-up period, the death rates of the male participates correlated strongly with their sleep patterns.  While only 9.1% of the men with healthy sleep cycles had died, a whopping 51.1% who slept less due to insomnia died within the 14 year span. There were no statistically significant differences in the death rates of the female participants, however.

Using the data gained from the physicals and sleep evaluations, the researchers determined that the association between insomnia with short sleep duration and high death rates was independent of other health conditions the men had. This finding means that the duration of sleep that men with insomnia are able to achieve might be a good indicator of how much the disease will impact their overall health, thus shortening their lives. It is worth noting that coincident hypertension and diabetes slightly increased the effect of insomnia with short sleep duration on their death rates.

These results did not surprise the researchers. Previous studies have found an association between insomnia and other diseases including high blood pressure and diabetes. Since these diseases can shorten lives and are associated with insomnia, if follows logically that insomnia should be associated directly with the shortening of lives.

If you are a man whose sleep suffers because of insomnia, seeking effective treatment for your insomnia may indeed be very important for your health. See your physician to discuss possible therapeutic routes to take. It may be well worth it in the long run.

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  • I think this is a correlation rather than a causation issue. The things that are causing the sleep problems are likely also contributing to earlier death (in men) rather than the fact of having less sleep causing the problem. One of my friends has always had problems sleeping, and was told he has high blood pressure. I think that rather than say that getting little sleep may lead to early death, it should be said that sleeping fewer than 6 hours on average indicates an underlying issue which may lead to dying younger and should be treated as a symptom to be followed up on.

  • Sleeping problems in the elderly may involve a number of factors such as: decreased energy output as a result of retirement,the age of the person, their state of health, and any prescription drugs they may be taking for health problems. The things that are inducing the sleep issues tend furthermore causing earlier dying in men rather than the simple fact of experiencing much less rest creating the issue. A site  offering sleep aids and articles showing you how quality sleep, not more sleep improves your energy levels.

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