Problems falling or staying asleep can make you feel tired and frustrated. It could also take years off your life expectancy, according to a new study by Northwestern Medicine and the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom (UK).
The effect was even greater in people with diabetes who had trouble sleeping, according to the study. Participants with diabetes who had frequent sleep disorders were 87% more likely to die from any cause (car crash, heart attack, etc.) during the 8.9-year follow-up period of the study than people without diabetes or sleep disorders. They died 12% more often than those who had diabetes but did not have frequent sleep disorders during this period.
“If you don’t have diabetes, your sleep disorders are still associated with an increased risk of death, but it is higher in those with diabetes,” said correspondent study author Kristen Knutson, associate professor of neurology (sleep medicine) and preventive medicine (epidemiology) at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
But by answering a simple question, “Do you have trouble falling asleep at night or do you wake up in the middle of the night?” – People can start addressing sleep disorders earlier in life and hopefully reduce that increased risk of death, Knutson said.
“That simple question is pretty easy for a clinician to ask. You can even ask yourself,” Knutson said. “But it’s a very broad question, and there are many reasons why you may not be sleeping well. Hence, it is important that you point this out to your doctor so that they can dive deeper.
“Is it just noise or light or something bigger like insomnia or sleep apnea? These are the more vulnerable patients in need of support, therapy and evaluation for their illness.”
The study will be published June 8 in the Journal of Sleep Research.
“Although we already knew there was a strong link between poor sleep and poor health, this illustrates the problem clearly,” said the study’s lead author, Malcolm von Schantz, professor of chronobiology at the University of Surrey. “The question asked at enrollment doesn’t necessarily differentiate between insomnia and other sleep disorders like sleep apnea. From a practical point of view, however, it doesn’t matter. Doctors should take sleep problems as seriously as any other risk factors and work with their patients to reduce and mitigate their overall risk. “
The authors analyzed existing data from nearly half a million middle-aged participants in the UK biobank study. To the best of the scientists’ knowledge, this is the first study to examine the effect of the combination of insomnia and diabetes on mortality risk.
We wanted to see if you have both diabetes and insomnia, are you worse than just diabetes alone? It could have gone either way, but it turned out that both diabetes and insomnia were associated with increased mortality, even compared to diabetics without insomnia. “
Kristen Knutson, Associate Professor of Neurology (Sleep Medicine) and Preventive Medicine (Epidemiology) at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
The participants had predominantly type 2 diabetes, the most common form, although some also had type 1 diabetes.