Ottawa Citizen

A good night’s sleep can help keep you alive: Study

- BY TOM SPEARS

Want your husband to live longer? Stop stealing his covers. Don’t snore. Resist the impulse to apply your icy feet to his warmer ones unexpected­ly, and let him sleep.

As men age, they need their sleep if they want to live long, says a medical study from the University of Minnesota. Disrupted sleep somehow manages to kill off even men who are in apparently good health.

The researcher­s followed about 3,000 men from age 67 up. All were in good health at the start of the study, which began in 2003.

By January of this year, 180 of the men were dead. And who was most likely to die? By far, the men with poor sleep patterns.

People have studied how good or bad sleep affects the lives of people with severe diseases, but never what it means for healthy people, said lead researcher Misti Paudel.

Five years ago she began following the men. She measured their activity by attaching a wristwatch-sized device to their wrists for five days at a time. It couldn’t measure actual sleep, but did measure when they were moving and when they were still — a strong indicator for whether they were getting some rest.

One indicator of trouble is being awake either very early in the morning or very late at night — both signs of insomnia.

“Waking early, staying up late, and severely disturbed sleep patterns may have a detrimenta­l impact on health in older men, especially since this group was generally in good health,” said Ms. Paudel.

“A good night’s sleep is important.”

And early results suggest that women have the same need for sleep.

“A colleague of mine has looked at the same thing in a women’s study,” said Ms. Paudel. “The women’s group are actually older than the men are. And he found the exact same thing,” though that study hasn’t wrapped up yet.

Ms. Paudel also compared the men’s activity levels in the day and the night.

“What we’re looking for is clear patterns. You look at how much more active they were during the day, and how much more inactive during the night. And what we found was that the bigger the difference, the better the (health) outcome” she said. “Disruption­s in either one of those — whether sleep disruption­s at night or not being active during the day” made people more likely to die.

Lack of sleep in older adults can lead to depression, memory problems and decreased attentiven­ess, as well as an increased risk of obesity, cardiovasc­ular disease and diabetes.

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