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Does insomnia put you at a higher risk of death?

Back in 2010 I wrote about a study that found male insomnia sufferers to be 4 times more likely to die prematurely, compared to healthy sleepers.

Since then, I've come across so many headlines linking insomnia with premature death that it's a wonder any insomniacs are still alive!

I understand, though. Nothing beats a good headline.

However, the truth is that the evidence linking insomnia with mortality is mixed. Furthermore, I've yet to come across any studies that have found insomnia to be the cause of premature death.

Having said that, a more recent prospective cohort study of over 23,447 US men found:

  • A 25% increased risk of death in those who found it difficult to fall asleep,
  • A 24% increased risk of death in those who experienced non-restorative sleep,
  • A 9% increased risk of death in those who found it difficult to stay asleep,
  • A 4% increased risk of death in those who woke prematurely.

It's worth bearing in mind that this study was not undertaken to determine cause and effect.

Just because researchers found an association, it doesn't mean that insomnia was the cause of premature death.

Indeed, longer sleep durations are often associated with greater mortality than short sleep durations. 

One study involving over 1 million adults undertaken by the University of California-San Diego found that those who slept more than 8 hours per night were at the highest risk of premature death.

If nothing else, these studies are a reminder of how important sleep is and the impact it has on our health.

Source: American Heart Association

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Last updated: April 17, 2014

This Article Was Written By

Martin Reed

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