Short Sleep Duration May Reduce Lifespan, Study Shows

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Investigators found genetic evidence that certain sleep behaviors can be risk factors for lifespan.

Short sleep duration may be a causal risk factor for short lifespan, according to the authors of a recent study published in Translational Psychiatry. While insomnia was not shown to have a causal effect on lifespan, it can still have negative long-term effects on physical and mental health.

Image Credit: © mast3r - stock.adobe.com

Image Credit: © mast3r - stock.adobe.com

“Short sleep duration is harmful to our physical health, and we might be able to reduce the negative effects of insomnia by increasing sleep duration,” wrote study authors.

While genetics can influence up to 25% of a person’s estimated lifespan, there are other factors that influence lifespan, which can include health, disease, lifestyle, environment, and chance. Recent studies promote sleep health as an important factor that can influence lifespan—as poor sleep habits are shown to increase risk of cardiovascular disease, mental health, and physical health—but no studies have identified a causal relationship between sleep health and lifespan yet.

In this analysis, investigators assessed genome-wide association studies to understand the association between sleep behavior and lifespan. They used 2-sample Mendelian randomization (MR) and multivariable MR analyses to then evaluate if sleep behavior could have a causal effecton lifespan.

Investigators evaluated 4 sleep behaviors: short sleep duration, long sleep duration, insomnia, and sleep chronotype. Short sleep duration was linked to reduced lifespan, unlike sleep chronotype or insomnia (IVW: β = –0.59, 95%CI = –0.98 to –0.20, P = 0.003; MR-Egger: β = –0.79, 95%CI = –1.21 to –0.21, P = 0.006).

The team also evaluated how different diseases relate to sleep behavior and lifespan. “As disruption of circadian rhythms was reported to be associated with metabolic, cardiovascular, mental health and immunological functions, we selected coronary artery disease (CAD), ischemic stroke, type 2 diabetes (T2D), psychiatric disorders, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and body mass index (BMI),” authors wrote in the paper.

Short sleep duration had positive causal effects on CAD, T2D, depression, and BMI, but it did not have a causal effect on atrial fibrillation. CAD (IVW β = –0.20, 95%CI = –0.22 to –0.18, P = 1.26 × 10–80), T2D (IVW β = –0.02, 95%CI = –0.03 to –0.009, P = 2.15 × 10–4) and depression (IVW β = –0.11, 95%CI = –0.16 to –0.05, P = 1.67 × 10–4) did not have a positive causal effect on lifespan. Moreover, under the mediation of certain diseases (CAD, depression, and T2D) short sleep duration had indirect causal effects on lifespan.

There are limitations to this study. First, all possible risk factors have not been accounted for. In addition, findings do not confirm a causal relationship between long sleep duration and lifespan, the sample size is smaller, and investigators evaluated subjective measurements of short sleep duration.

“This collective evidence indicated that extension of sleep may benefit physical health for individuals with sleep loss, and further attention should be given to such public health issues,” study authors wrote.

REFERENCE

Wu Y, Zhang C, Liu X, Wang L, Li M, Li Y, Xiao X. Shared genetic architecture and causal relationship between sleep behaviors and lifespan. Transl Psychiatry. 2024;14(108). doi:10.1038/s41398-024-02826-x

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