Nearly all of us grew up with our mothers telling to “get your sleep, you’ll get sick if you don’t” or “get your sleep, you’ll stunt your growth” and many more! Well, once again, it turns out that mom was right.
Researchers at the University of Arizona recently published a study in the American Journal of Medicine which was investigating the actual impact of sleep and lack of sleep on our life spans.
The study actually used data from a study begun in 1972 and followed nearly 1400 people for 38 years. Follow up data was collected throughout this time frame and mortality data gathered up until 2011. The data is nothing short of remarkable. The researchers were able to distinguish between intermittent insomnia (such as you might have before a big job interview or the night before a large exam!) and chronic, persistent lack of sleep and insomnia. What was discovered was that people with such persistent lack of sleep were 58% more likely to die during the study! Incredible! Intermittent insomnia seemed to also be a factor contributing to early death but when the researchers made allowances and adjustments for things like age, sex, weight, smoking, etc. that would also contribute to early death…they found that intermittent lack of sleep did not contribute. But even when these factors were adjusted for in the chronic sleep loss group…the results demonstrated this 58% increased risk of death! Interestingly, the primary cause of death risk isolated was cardiopulmonary and not cancer.
Secondarily, the team of researchers looked at the presence of inflammation in the body and its possible link to sleep loss. Inflammation is known to be a contributing factor to early death itself and in the last decade has come under greater and greater study as the onset of the majority of diseases seems to be preceded by inflammation of the tissue. Given the hugely increased risk of death noted, it isn’t surprising that the blood indicators for inflammation were also significantly increased in the chronic sleep loss folks. Since this in itself is an indicator of death risk, they made allowances and adjustments for this to see how much of the death risk noted was caused by this indicator in the blood (called C-reactive protein) and even then there was a 36% elevation in death risk due to sleep loss!
As painful as it may be for some, we do have to confess that mom was, in fact, right again! But in all earnestness, it must be noted that sleep is critically important not only for longevity….but the quality of our health and experience on the journey. Sleep….it does a body good….get some!!