Today in the journal Sleep, researchers report that men who suffer from insomnia are four times as likely to die as men who sleep well. The study looked at 1,741 people with an average age of 50 and followed them for between 10 and 14 years.
They found that men with reported insomnia (verified in a sleep lab) were four times as likely to die during the course of the study. When hypertension or diabetes were added to the picture, the men were seven times as likely to die as the ones who reported no sleep difficulties.
It’s no surprise that sleep affects health–not getting enough zzz’s has been linked to memory loss and other chronic medical conditions. But the researchers say they were astonished to see such a big difference in mortality rates.
What did the scientists deem as “insomnia”–how many hours of rest did the men need to be considered good sleepers? And what about women?
The men who slept fewer than six hours were considered to have insomnia. Even though doctors recommend getting seven or eight per night, the cutoff at six was where researchers found the big jump. Again, they tested the subjects in sleep labs to see just how their night progressed.
Meanwhile, women showed no increased mortality when their sleep was sub-par. The scientists say they don’t know why, but they suspect women’s insomnia may not be as severe. They also studied them for 10 years, whereas they tracked the men for 14.
It’s kind of scary for me to read, because both my dad and husband have what I would call chronic sleep problems. For my dad, it’s waking up really early in the morning (he’s been known to go into his university lab at 3:00 a.m. when he can’t sleep). My husband is just a night owl and regularly goes to bed at 1:00 a.m. or later. That used to be fine, but now that we have a little built-in-kid-alarm, he’s up way too early in the morning to catch up on sleep.
Needless to say, i’ll be forwarding this study to the two most important men in my life.