Healthy living

Lack of sleep linked to early death

But too much may indicate ill health

Sleeping for less than six hours a night increases your chances of an early death, new research suggests.

People who get less than six hours sleep a night are 12 per cent more likely to die before the age of 65 compared with those who get an ideal 6 to 8 hours rest.

The team of researchers from the University of Warwick and Federico II University Medical School in Naples say they are the first to provide "unequivocal evidence" of a direct link between too little sleep and early death.

The researchers analysed data from 16 studies involving more than 1.3 million people from the UK, USA, European and East Asian countries. Over 25 years, 100,000 deaths were recorded.

People who slept for less than 6 hours a night or consistently overslept for 9 hours a night were both found to have an increased chance of an early death.

However, while too little sleep is a risk factor for dying early, the researchers say that too much sleep can be a marker for an underlying serious and potentially fatal illness.

Professor Francesco Cappuccio, leader of the Sleep, Health and Society Programme at the University of Warwick, said: "Whilst short sleep may represent a cause of ill-health, long sleep is believed to represent more an indicator of ill-health".

"Modern society has seen a gradual reduction in the average amount of sleep people take, and this pattern is more common amongst full-time workers, suggesting that it may be due to societal pressures for longer working hours and more shift-work.

"On the other hand, the deterioration of our health status is often accompanied by an extension of our sleeping time.

"Consistently sleeping 6 to 8 hours per night may be optimal for health," he added.

This article was published on Wed 5 May 2010

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