Sleep deprivation can be linked to an increased risk of developing heart disease later in life, research has found.
The research, published in the journal Sleep, looked at the health and longevity of more than 1,000 adults aged over 65 in the UK and found that those who experienced sleep deprivation at least twice a week for more than six months had a 50 per cent increased risk.
The findings have implications for the use of artificial light in homes, as well as for how children should be taught to sleep, Professor Alan Murphy from the University of Exeter said.
“The research suggests that sleep deprivation is linked to a higher risk of mortality,” he said.
“It’s not clear how much this might have to do with sunlight or the amount of time people spend in their rooms, but we can’t ignore that.”
We should be using artificial light more, we should be encouraging people to get up and move around more.
“But we need to look at other things, like the health implications of sleep deprivation, which can lead to cardiovascular disease later on.”
Sleep deprivation in older people could be linked with an increased incidence of heart attack or stroke, and is linked with poor diet, Professor Murphy said.
Sleep deprivation can also lead to increased risk for other health problems, including obesity and diabetes.
“Our data shows that the risk of all three of these is increased in people with sleep deprivation.”
It could also be linked in later life to the development of cardiovascular disease,” he added.
The study, which followed the health of nearly 3,500 older people for nearly 20 years, found that the overall incidence of stroke and heart disease was highest among people with a history of sleep loss.
The risk of death for people with the lowest baseline sleepiness, compared to those with the highest baseline, was 0.5 per cent, while the risk for those with a baseline of 1.2 per cent was more than twice that for those at the highest.
The highest risk was for people in their 60s with a sleep deprivation of more a year or more, compared with those who had a baseline less than six weeks.
In a statement, Professor Michael Brown, from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, said the research had highlighted the importance of getting people up and moving.”
A good sleep and good diet can keep you healthy and reduce your risk of disease,” Professor Brown said.