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Study: General sleep disturbance associated with obesity, diabetes, heart disease


PHILADELPHIA — People who suffer from sleep disturbances are at major risk for obesity, diabetes and coronary artery disease, according to new research released Thursday from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Shown for the first time in such a large and diverse sample, analyzing the data of more than 130,000 people, the new research also indicated that general sleep disturbance (difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep and/or sleeping too much) may play a role in the development of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. The study is published online ahead of print in the Journal of Sleep Research.

“This study is one of the largest ever to link sleep problems with important cardiovascular and metabolic diseases," stated Philip Gehrman, assistant professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, clinical director of the Penn Medicine Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program, and senior study author. "It joins other studies that show that sleep is an important part of health, just like diet and physical activity. ... As a society, we need to make healthy sleep a priority.”

The researchers examined associations between sleep disturbances and other health conditions, focusing on perceived sleep quality, rather than just sleep duration. After adjusting for demographic, socioeconomic and health risk factors, patients with sleep disturbances at least three nights per week on average were 35% more likely to be obese, 54% more likely to have diabetes, 98% more likely to have coronary artery disease, 80% more likely to have had a heart attack and 102% more likely to have had a stroke.

“Previous studies have demonstrated that those who get less sleep are more likely to also be obese, have diabetes or cardiovascular disease, and are more likely to die sooner, but this new analysis has revealed that other sleep problems, such as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or even too much sleep, are also associated with cardiovascular and metabolic health issues,” stated Michael Grandner, research associate at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at Penn, and lead author of the study.

Grandner and colleagues analyzed data from the 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System of 138,201 people. The researchers said that future studies are needed to show whether sleep problems actually predict the new onset of cardiovascular and metabolic disease, and whether treatment of sleep problems improves long-term health and longevity. The research was funded, in part, by a grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.


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