TUESDAY, July 7, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Deep sleep is essential for good health, and too little of it may shorten your life, a new study suggests.
REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is when dreams occur and the body repairs itself from the ravages of the day. For every 5% reduction in REM sleep, mortality rates increase 13% to 17% among older and middle-aged adults, researchers report.
“Numerous studies have linked insufficient sleep with significant health consequences. Yet, many people ignore the signs of sleep problems or don’t allow enough time to get adequate sleep,” said lead researcher Eileen Leary. She is a senior manager of clinical research at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.
“In our busy, fast-paced lives, sleep can feel like a time-consuming nuisance. This study found in two independent cohorts that lower levels of REM sleep was associated with higher rates of mortality,” she said.
How REM sleep is associated with risk of death isn’t known, Leary said. Also, this study couldn’t prove that poor REM causes death, only that it’s associated with an increased risk of dying early.
“The function of REM is still not well understood, but knowing that less REM is linked to higher mortality rates adds a piece to the puzzle,” she said.
It’s still too early to make recommendations about improving REM sleep based on this study, Leary said.
“As we learn more about the relationship, we can begin looking at ways to optimize REM. But that is outside the scope of this project,” she said.
For the study, Leary and her colleagues included more than 2,600 men, average age 76, who were followed for a median of 12 years. They also collected data on nearly 1,400 men and women, average age 52, who were part of another study and were followed for a median of 21 years.
Poor REM sleep was tied to early death from any cause as well as death from cardiovascular and other diseases, the researchers found.
REM sleep’s links to mortality were similar in both groups.