Sleep Issues Connected to Higher Risk of Death, Specifically for People with Diabetes

The researchers found that the effect of fatigue from sleep disruption increased among patients with diabetes.

A new study from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Surrey in the UK has connected the inability to fall asleep with a potential loss in years off of life expectancy.

The researchers found that the effect of fatigue from sleep disruption increased among patients with diabetes. Study participants with the disease who experienced regular sleep disturbances were found to be 87% more likely to die of any cause during the 8.9-year study follow-up period versus those without diabetes or sleep disturbances. Further, these patients were 12% more likely to die during the study period than individuals with diabetes who were able to maintain a regular sleep cycle, according to the study authors.

"If you don't have diabetes, your sleep disturbances are still associated with an increased risk of dying, but it's higher for those with diabetes," said corresponding study author Kristen Knutson, associate professor of neurology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in a press release.

First study author Malcolm von Schantz, professor of chronobiology from the University of Surrety, added that although the researchers were previously aware of a strong link between poor sleep and diminished health, the findings specifically illustrate the problem bluntly.

"The question asked when the participants enrolled does not necessarily distinguish between insomnia and other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea,” von Schantz said in the press release. “Still, from a practical point of view it doesn't matter. Doctors should take sleep problems as seriously as other risk factors and work with their patients on reducing and mitigating their overall risk."

The study authors analyzed existing data of nearly a half-million middle-aged participants in the UK Biobank Study, and it is the first study to their knowledge to examine the effect of the combination of insomnia and diabetes on mortality risk, according to the press release.

"We wanted to see if you have both diabetes and sleep disturbances, are you worse off than just diabetes alone?" Knutson said in the press release. "It could have gone either way, but it turns out having both diabetes and sleep disturbances was associated increased mortality, even compared to those with diabetes without sleep disturbances."

REFERENCE

Have trouble sleeping? You’re at higher risk of dying, especially if you have diabetes. EurekAlert! Published June 8, 2021. Accessed June 9, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-06/nu-hts060421.php