Factors associated with short and long sleep

The Introduction

sleeping personInterestingly,  there has been some research done over the last five years or so to show that both short (< 7 hours) and long (≥ 9 hours) have been linked to increased death rates in the USA, Europe and Asia. Short sleep has also been shown to contribute to chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. In a 2009 American study, short and long sleeping hours  were reported by 28.3% and 8.5% of those surveyed, respectively. Both were associated with low education levels, low income, alcohol consumption, depression and chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Short sleep was also associated with being single and long working hours whilst long sleep was also associated with low physical activity levels, pregnancy and ethnicity.

The Research

This Australian study analysed cross-sectional and self-reported data from 49,405 Australian adults aged 45 to 65 years collected between 2006 and 2008. The purpose of the study was to see if Australian adults had similar sleep patterns to other countries and what factors might be associated with short or long sleep patterns in Australian adults.

The Results

Short and long sleep were reported by 16.6% and 13.9% of participants, respectively. Short sleep was associated with long working hours and obesity. Long sleep was associated with recent treatment for cancer and heart attack/angina. Short sleep was also associated with poorer self-rated overall health, lower education levels, being single, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and treatment for heart disease and depression/anxiety. Long sleep appears a consequence, rather than a cause, of chronic disease.

The So What?

These findings are important because short sleep has consistently been shown to be a risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. Thus, for health reasons 7-8 hours sleep appears strongly suggested. As discussed at length in The Masters Athlete book, cool, dark and quiet rooms appear the best for sleep. Moreover, avoiding stimulation or stimulants (e.g. caffeine drinks) before going to bed also aids quality sleep.

Magee, C., Iverson, D.,  Caputi, P. (2009). Factors associated with short and long sleep. Preventive Medicine.49(6): 461-467.

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