Do You Often Get Five Hours of Sleep? You May Be at Risk of Living with Multiple Chronic Diseases

A good night’s sleep can help you maintain your focus, power through the day, and have enough energy to finish your to-do list. On the other hand, if you don’t get enough sleep, getting through the day can be tough. If you miss out on that beauty rest regularly, too, you may also be setting yourself up to suffer from multiple chronic diseases.

Researchers from University College London recently examined how the sleep habits of middle-aged and older adults impacted their likelihood of living with chronic conditions. Those who found themselves on the lower end of nightly sleep duration had the odds stacked against them. The research, published in PLOS Medicine, found that 50-year-old adults who averaged five or fewer hours of sleep per night were 20% more likely to have been diagnosed with a chronic disease and 40% more likely to have two or more chronic diseases, known as multimorbidity, within 25 years. This is compared with those who got at least seven hours.


Dr. Severine Sabia, lead author from UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health, explains, “Multimorbidity is on the rise in high income countries and more than half of older adults now have at least two chronic diseases. This is proving to be a major challenge for public health, as multimorbidity is associated with high healthcare service use, hospitalizations and disability.

“As people get older, their sleep habits and sleep structure change. However, it is recommended to sleep for 7 to 8 hours a night – as sleep durations above or below this have previously been associated with individual chronic diseases. Our findings show that short sleep duration is also associated with multimorbidity.”

The risk of death was also higher for those who slept on the lower end of the spectrum, with those sleeping five or fewer hours a night facing a 25% higher risk of death over 25 years compared with those with a healthier total. Researchers say this is likely because their shorter sleep duration led to a higher risk of conditions like heart disease, cancer, or diabetes, which can all increase risk of death.


The team did not, however, find adverse results among healthy people who got nine or more hours of sleep per night, but those already living with a chronic condition were 35% more likely to develop another if they slept for excessive periods each night. The researchers say this could be due to the conditions causing sleep issues.

The data came from more than 7,000 men and women who had taken part in the Whitehall II study and been followed for 25 years.

So what can you do to ensure you’re getting sufficient shut-eye?


Dr. Sabia has some tips:

“To ensure a better night’s sleep, it is important to promote good sleep hygiene, such as making sure the bedroom is quiet, dark and a comfortable temperature before sleeping. It’s also advised to remove electronic devices and avoid large meals before bedtime. Physical activity and exposure to light during the day might also promote good sleep.”

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