Posted on Jul 09, 2020, 2 p.m.
Studies suggest that deep sleep is important to good health and well being, and according to a recent study published in JAMA Neurology getting too little of it may be shortening your lifespan.
Rapid Eye Movement sleep is when dreams will typically occur and our body repairs itself from the ravages of the day. According to research for every 5% reduction in REM sleep the mortality rate increases 13-17% among older and middle aged adults, even after adjusting for multiple demographic, sleep, and health variables.
"Numerous studies have linked insufficient sleep with significant health consequences. Yet, many people ignore the signs of sleep problems or don't allow enough time to get adequate sleep," said lead researcher Eileen Leary, who is also a senior manager of clinical research at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.
“In our busy, fast-paced lives, sleep can feel like a time-consuming nuisance. This study found in two independent cohorts that lower levels of REM sleep was associated with higher rates of mortality," she adds.
Leary notes that how REM sleep is associated with the risk of death is not fully understood, this study couldn’t prove that poor REM causes death only that it is associated with an increased risk of dying early, and that it is too early to make recommendations based on this study.
"The function of REM is still not well understood, but knowing that less REM is linked to higher mortality rates adds a piece to the puzzle," Leary said. "As we learn more about the relationship, we can begin looking at ways to optimize REM. But that is outside the scope of this project.”
Over 2,600 men with an average age of 76 who were followed for a median of 12 years were included in this study. Data was also gathered on close to 1,400 men and women with an average age of 52 who were followed for a median of 21 years who were part of another study. Findings suggest that REM sleep is linked to early death from any cause as well as death from cardiovascular disease and other diseases; and the links to mortality were similar in both groups.
"REM sleep appears to be a reliable predictor of mortality and may have other predictive health values," Leary said. "Strategies to preserve REM may influence clinical therapies and reduce mortality risk, particularly for adults with less than 15% of REM sleep."
"When we sleep, we go through different stages to include REM sleep. REM describes our eye movements during this stage and is also the state associated with when we have dreams," said Dr. Michael Jaffee, who is an associate professor of neurology at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Poor sleep is a global concern, according to the CDC less and one third of Americans get 7 hours of sleep per night and an estimated 50-70 million suffer from sleep disorders. World Sleep estimated that sleep deprivation is threatening the health of up to 40% of the global population.
Depending on age it is recommended to get between 7-10 hours of sleep per night; those who get less than 4 or more than 10 can face increased risks for earlier death, and this association has been found to remain for both genders and all races and ethnicities around the world.
“This study shows yet another reason for the importance of proper sleep time—recommendations for adults is seven hours—and a good balance of sleep stages by assuring that any possible conditions, such as obstructive sleep apnea, that can cause a reduction in REM be evaluated and managed," said Jaffee. “Anyone with difficulty with sleeping or with loud snoring can benefit from discussing this with their physician," he added.
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