People With These Conditions Should Sleep at Least 6 Hours a Night

©. Amy Johansson

Research finds that normal sleep may be protective against early death for people with certain health risks.

An important part of keeping the planet healthy is keeping its inhabitants healthy. Poor health is costly both in terms of money, resources, and waste – which is why simple, preventative methods for keeping illness at bay should be embraced whenever possible.

Now admittedly, some preventative methods can be a hard sell. Eating well and exercise, for example, don’t come easily for some. But here’s one that should be easier to swallow: Get enough sleep.

There has been a great deal of research lately showing just how important a good night’s sleep is (see related stories below). And now a study from the American Heart Association adds to this growing body of evidence with a paper published in the organization’s open access journal

They concluded that adults with

  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease, or
  • Stroke

could be at high risk for cancer and early death when sleeping less than six hours per day, according to the research which was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

"Our study suggests that achieving normal sleep may be protective for some people with these health conditions and risks," said study author Julio Fernandez-Mendoza, Ph.D., associate professor at Pennsylvania State College of Medicine and sleep psychologist at the Sleep Research & Treatment Center of the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

For the study, they looked at data from more than 1,600 men and women ranging in age from 20 to 74 years old all from the Penn State Adult Cohort. The subjects were placed into two groups as having stage 2 high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes and having heart disease or stroke. Participants were studied in the sleep laboratory (1991-1998) and researchers tracked their cause of death up to the end of 2016.

They found:

  • People who had high blood pressure or diabetes and slept less than 6 hours had twice the increased risk of dying from heart disease or stroke.
  • People who had heart disease or stroke and slept less than 6 hours had three times the increased risk of dying from cancer.
  • The increased risk of early death for people with high blood pressure or diabetes was negligible if they slept for more than 6 hours.

"Short sleep duration should be included as a useful risk factor to predict the long-term outcomes of people with these health conditions and as a target of primary and specialized clinical practices," Fernandez-Mendoza said. "I'd like to see policy changes so that sleep consultations and sleep studies become a more integral part of our healthcare systems. Better identification of people with specific sleep issues would potentially lead to improved prevention, more complete treatment approaches, better long-term outcomes and less healthcare usage."

Forty-five percent of the United States population has stage 2 high blood pressure and/or Type 2 diabetes – and another 14 percent have heart disease or stroke – there is obviously a lot of room for improvement. But within those numbers, if better sleep could help alleviate an increased risk of dying, it seems like a pretty simple fix.

Of course for the throngs of Americans who suffer from insomnia, that simple fix may be easier said than done. But there are ways to improve sleep, even for the most insomnia-plagued among us. Perhaps adding some "you may live longer" incentive may help the sleep-deprived get more sleep. Or, yeah, maybe it will keep them up at night? Either way, the bottom line is this: Getting enough sleep is good for the body and in turn, good for the planet.