From the age of 50, sleeping less than five hours a night strongly degrades health

A British study concludes that the risk of developing chronic diseases increases significantly below five hours of sleep per night after 50 years.

Sleeping less than five hours is exposing yourself to a notable deterioration in health from the age of 50. If it is not necessarily dangerous to sleep a little less (or a little more) than the seven or eight hours recommended in adults by specialists, falling below the five-hour threshold is associated with a greater development of chronic diseases after forty, according to the conclusions of several researchers published in the American scientific journal Plos Medicine.

People who sleep less than five hours a night are 30% more likely to develop at least two chronic diseases after age 50 compared to those who sleep between seven and eight hours. The most frequently declared diseases are the different types of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Up to 40% higher risk at age 70

This 30% proportion is an average of the results obtained at the ages of 50, 60 and 70 years retained in the database. In detail, people in their 50s who slept on average less than five hours a night were 25% more likely to develop chronic diseases compared to people of the same age who slept between seven and eight hours a night. At 60 years of age, the excess risk is 32% and rises to 40% at 70 years of age.

People who sleep more than eight hours also have a higher risk of developing chronic diseases, mainly because their sleep may be of poorer quality, but this proportion is lower than that of those who sleep less than five hours.

The researchers who conducted the study note that the age-matched populations were compared without other risk factors such as smoking, poor nutrition, little physical exercise, or even genetic predispositions being fairly represented. Another limit: the data obtained is based on the statements of the subjects without additional controls and analyzes by scientists.

These results are based on reading health and sleep data from almost 8,000 Britons, grouped in the Whitehall II cohort. They were collected for 25 years, stored and analyzed by researchers. Data collected from this cohort is related to individuals’ health and socioeconomic profiles, in an attempt to establish links between the two.

The importance of monitoring chronic diseases

The scientists highlight the need to understand the relationship between sleep duration and chronic diseases in a context in which the latter weigh more and more on health spending in Western countries and this percentage should increase even more in the coming years, according to French medical insurance forecasts.

The institution explains that of the 168 billion spent for the care of more than 66 million patients in 2020, 104 billion had been for chronic pathologies, that is, 62%. A steadily rising share since at least 2015.

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