Regular, Optimal Sleep Tied to Lower Mortality Risk

Maintaining a regular healthy sleep schedule may help guard against premature death, new research suggests.

In a diverse group of older adults, those with regular and optimal sleep had about a 40% lower risk of dying of any cause during follow-up than peers who with irregular and insufficient sleep.

“If sleep were an eight-hour pill, it would be beneficial to take the full dose at regular times consistently,” lead researcher Joon Chung, PhD, with Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, said in a news release.

The findings were presented at SLEEP 2023, the 37th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

Broad Adverse Health Effects

“Evidence is mounting that irregular sleep is associated with pretty broad adverse health outcomes, most prominently cardiometabolic disease, obesity, and cardiovascular disease,” Chung told Medscape Medical News.

In the current study, the researchers estimated the association of regular sleep of optimal sleep duration with all-cause mortality using data from 1759 adults the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis Sleep Study.

Sleep regularity and duration were classified using 7 days of data gathered by wrist actigraphy. Adults were categorized as “regular-optimal” sleepers (n = 1015) or “irregular-insufficient” sleepers (n = 744).

During 7 years of follow up, 176 people died. In the fully adjusted model, the regular-optimal group had a 39% lower mortality risk compared to the irregular-insufficient sleep group (hazard ratio, 0.61; 95% IC, 0.45 – 0.83). The findings were robust in sensitivity analyses.

The regular and optimal duration sleep pattern maps behaviorally to regular bed and wake times, suggesting potential health benefits of adherence to recommended sleep practices, the researchers note.

“Results suggest benefits of expanding the public conversation on getting ‘a good night’s sleep’ and broadening this goal to getting many good nights of sleep, in a row, on weekdays and weekends,” Chung said in the release.

He further told Medscape Medical News that “getting adequate, regular sleep seems to be something that is good for all. I don’t know of anyone who wouldn’t benefit.”

Fariha Abassi-Feinberg, MD, spokesperson for the AASM and sleep specialist with the Millennium Physician Group, Fort Myers, Florida, agrees.

“We know our bodies have an internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm, which regulates various biological processes, including sleep-wake cycles. Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule allows your body to align its natural rhythm with the external day-night cycle. This synchronization promotes better sleep quality and therefore better health,” said Abassi-Feinberg, who wasn’t involved in the study.

“The AASM recommends adults try to aim for at least 7 hours of sleep and I often tell my patients that keeping a regular routine is best for your sleep and health,” she told Medscape Medical News.

Funding for the study was provided by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Chung and Abassi-Feinberg report no relevant financial relationships.

SLEEP 2022: the 37th Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies. Abstract 0724. Presented June 7, 2023.

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