How well and how long a person sleeps is tied to how likely they are to live with multiple chronic conditions, according to researchers at Western University in London, Ont.
The study, Sleep behaviours and multimorbidity occurrence in middle-aged and older adults, is published in the journal Sleep Medicine and involved data through the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging from over 30,000 adults over the age of 45.
Researchers out of Western’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry say they cannot confirm that poor sleep habits cause illness, but lead author Kathryn Nicholson says the study highlights “an important relationship between self-reported sleep patterns, both duration and satisfaction, and the odds of multimorbidity,” which is defined as having two or more chronic conditions in a single individual.
The study authors also note that previous studies have established that lack of sleep has “negative effects on the cardio-metabolic, endocrine, immune, and inflammatory systems.”
“Sleep is still a neglected clinical and public health issue,” said principal investigator on the study, Dr. Saverio Stranges.
“This study provides additional evidence of the potential role of sleep for the prevention and management of several chronic conditions.”
Of note, the study found that too much sleep actually had a stronger link to multimorbidity than too little sleep.
Female participants who self-reported less than six hours of sleep a night had a 16 per cent increase in the odds of multimorbidity, but those who self-reported more than eight hours a night had a 44 per cent increase in the odds of multimorbidity.
Male participants who self-reported long sleep duration had a 45 per cent increase in the odds of multimorbidity, according to the study.
While previous studies showed an association between sleep and chronic conditions, researchers say this is the first Canadian study focusing specifically on middle-aged and older adults.
“High-quality sleep can be very beneficial, but achieving this high-quality sleep can sometimes be a challenge,” Nicholson said.
“We hope that this study will continue to emphasize the importance of focusing on sleep as a key health indicator and ideally, this assessment of sleep will include a focus on sleep quality and sleep duration and be a point of conversation during a clinical encounter for all patients living with multimorbidity.”
The researchers will next look at the first set of follow-up data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging to look into “longitudinal patterns between multimorbidity and other health indicators.”