If you sleep less than five hours a night later in life, your risk of developing a chronic disease can increase by a fifth.
Donald Trump, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher apparently manage with just four or five hours of sleep, but a study suggests this is unwise.
Researchers looked at 7,864 Britons, who were asked at ages 50, 60 and 70 how much sleep they got on an average weeknight.
These people were followed for 25 years to see if they developed any of 13 common chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease or dementia.
People age 50 who sleep five hours or less a night, compared with people who sleep seven hours, were found to be 20 percent more likely to get one of the 13 diseases for the first time.
But they also had a higher risk of getting two or more of these diseases.
Donald Trump (left), Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher (right) apparently got around on just four or five hours of slumber, but a study suggests this is unwise
HOW MUCH SLEEP SHOULD I GET?
Most adults need between six and nine hours of sleep each night.
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every night programs the brain and internal body clock to get used to a set routine.
Few people manage to stick to strict bedtime patterns.
To make it easier to fall asleep, the NHS recommends relaxing, for example by taking a bath, reading and avoiding electronic devices.
The health department also recommends keeping the bedroom sleep-friendly by removing TVs and gadgets from the room and keeping it dark and tidy.
For people who have trouble sleeping, the NHS says keeping a sleep diary can uncover lifestyle habits or activities that contribute to sleepiness.
It shows that lack of sleep is not only linked to illness in later life, but to multiple diseases that people live with at the same time, increasing their risk of hospitalization and disability.
People aged 60 who slept five hours or less, compared with those who slept seven hours, were 32 percent more likely to develop multiple diseases later in life.
By age 70, the risk increased to 40 percent.
Multiple diseases are referred to as “multimorbidity” by health researchers.
Lead author Dr. Severine Sabia, who led the study from University College London’s Institute of Epidemiology & Health, and Inserm in France, said: “Multimorbidity is on the rise in high-income countries and more than half of older adults now have at least two chronic diseases.
‘As people get older, their sleeping habits and sleep structure change.
“However, it is recommended to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night, as our findings show that sleep deprivation is linked to multiple illnesses.”
Humans spend about a third of our lives sleeping and it plays a vital role in lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation in the body.
This could explain why people who sleep too little are more at risk for chronic diseases.
The study looked at a database of officials in London, who were asked questions about their sleep from 1985, and agreed to have their medical records checked for a quarter of a century.
During that time, the new analysis finds that people who slept five hours or less instead of seven at age 50 were 25 percent more likely to die.
This was due to the fact that sleep-deprived people were more likely to develop chronic diseases that could be fatal.
It is often claimed that people who are sick, but do not know it yet, sleep less well.
As a result, it appears that lack of sleep has led to illness, when in fact it is the illness that caused the lack of sleep.
But the strong findings in healthy people aged 50, who initially had none of the 13 chronic illnesses the study looked at, suggest that their later illness was really related to sleep deprivation.
Among people with sleep deprivation and multiple diseases, the most common chronic diseases were coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and arthritis.
The risk of two or more chronic diseases was higher in people who slept five hours or less by age 50, even when other factors such as their weight, blood pressure, smoking and alcohol consumption were taken into account.
At ages 60 and 70, sleeping longer than nine hours or more was linked to higher rates of multiple chronic diseases.
But this was based on only 122 people sleeping that long.
The study looked at people who self-reported their sleep, and they may be wrong.
But researchers found a similar result in about 4,000 people whose sleep was recorded using wrist-worn trackers.
The study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, looked at people who were followed through 2019.
Jo Whitmore, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, which funded the research, said: ‘This research adds to a growing body of research highlighting the importance of a good night’s sleep.’