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Older people who do not get enough sleep can develop diseases

Shorter sleep in old age can be associated with the development of several diseases. According to researchers from Université Paris Cité and University College London, adults aged 50 and over who sleep five hours or less at night have a 30 percent higher risk of developing chronic diseases than those who sleep seven hours. The results were published in PLOS Medicine.

A team led by French epidemiologist Séverine Sabia examined data from more than 7,800 participants who had been followed for 25 years. Between 1985 and 2016, the study participants were asked six times about their sleep duration. The researchers compared the given data with the development of multimorbidity. This means the occurrence of at least two diseases such as diabetes, depression or arthritis at the same time.

By age 60, those who slept less than five hours had a 32 percent higher risk of multimorbidity, rising to 40 percent by age 70. Less sleep at age 50 was also associated with a 25 percent higher risk of death, according to the researchers. A weakness of the study is that sleep duration was self-reported and is not always reliable.

The results make it clear how important the duration of sleep is for a healthy life in old age. The scientists advocate attention to sleep hygiene “from the middle of life”. The American health authority CDC recommends that you should go to bed and get up at the same time if possible – even on weekends. The bedroom should be dark and cool and free of electronic devices such as smartphones and laptops. You should also avoid large meals, caffeine and alcohol before bed. Those who are physically active during the day may sleep better at night, the CDC said.

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