For the last three years I have been suffering from insomnia which has caused me no end of grief. To stay awake most of the night is by no means something one can get used to. However I now read that lack of sleep is unlikely to shorten your life than those who snooze soundly.
Insomnia affects about a third of Britons every year and has been linked to high blood pressure and diabetics. But a review of 17 studies taking in almost 37 million people has concluded being unable to sleep does not raise the risk of an untimely death.
Researchers at the Flinders University of South Australia found those with night-time insomnia alone have no extra chance of dying, based on studies following them for up to 28 years. Those with daytime symptoms such as fatigue and anxiety had a slightly higher chance of death, but it was not statistically significant.
Sleeping pills may add to your mortality risk but insomnia does not, the authors state. Dr Nicole Lovato, lead author at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health at the university, said: ‘This knowledge and reassurance may help reduce insomniacs’ anxiety related to this matter and break the cycle of insomnia.’ In the studies reviewed, approximately 10% of participants suffered from insomnia. The overall risk of an early death was just 6%, however, which is not seen as statistically significant.
Other research has shown a link between lack of sleep and life-limiting conditions. Professor Russell Foster, of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at Oxford University said: ‘We do know the kind of sleep loss seen in shift workers, even when confounding factors are taken into account, can increase the risk of conditions including cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.’
Whatever conclusion these studies come to, the discomfort of insomnia is still a major factor to cope with, even if on the whole, it does not necessarily shorten one’s life.