The five sleep factors that reduce mortality

Scientists have identified five sleep factors that may add years to your life when considered together.

The findings of a recent study highlight the value of integrating sleep programs as part of wellness offerings in hospitality and point to five sleep factors that may contribute significantly to longevity. 

Sleep may still be a pretty big mystery but we do know that it’s crucial and integral to overall health. As the American National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke states, “Everyone needs sleep, but its biological purpose remains a mystery. Sleep affects almost every type of tissue and system in the body – from the brain, heart, and lungs to metabolism, immune function, mood, and disease resistance. Research shows that a chronic lack of sleep, or getting poor quality sleep, increases the risk of disorders including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity.”

We know that lack of sleep can kill you (albeit usually indirectly). The new study data, in fact, suggests that about eight percent of deaths from any cause can be attributed to poor sleep patterns. But it also highlights what happens when things go the other way – when sleep goes right. 

The research found that people who have more beneficial sleep habits are incrementally less likely to die younger. 

The study involved data from 172,321 people with an average age of 50 who participated in the National Health Interview Survey between 2013 and 2018. This survey about the health of the U.S. population is conducted annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Center for Health Statistics and includes questions about sleep and sleep habits. Researchers linked participants to the National Death Index to examine the association between individual and combined sleep factors and all-cause and cause-specific mortality. 

“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.” 

While controlling for other factors, researchers assessed five different sleep-related factors: 

  • Ideal sleep duration of seven to eight hours a night
  • Difficulty falling asleep no more than two times a week 
  • Trouble staying asleep no more than two times a week
  • Not using any sleep medication
  • Feeling well rested after waking up at least five days a week 

Those who reported having all five quality sleep measures were given a total score of five.  Compared to people with only zero or one positive sleep factors, those with all five had a 30% reduced risk of death from any cause, a 21% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, a 19% decreased risk of dying from cancer, and a 40% reduced likelihood of death from reasons other than heart disease or cancer. These other reasons likely include accidents, infections, and  neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Among participants with a score of five, life expectancy was 4.7 years greater for men and 2.4 years greater for women compared with those with a score of zero or one. Researchers do not yet know why men had double the increase in life expectancy compared with women.

“We saw a clear dose-response relationship, so the more beneficial factors someone has in terms of having higher quality of sleep, they also have a stepwise lowering of all cause and cardiovascular mortality,” said study c-author, Frank Qian, MD, in a statement. “I think these findings emphasize that just getting enough hours of sleep isn’t sufficient. You really have to have restful sleep and not have much trouble falling and staying asleep.” Qian also said this is the first study to his knowledge to use a nationally representative population to examine how several sleep behaviors might influence life expectancy.

“If people have all these ideal sleep behaviors, they are more likely to live longer,” Qian said. “So, if we can improve sleep overall, and identifying sleep disorders is especially important, we may be able to prevent some of this premature mortality.”


Image by jcomp on Freepik

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.