By Pure Matters

The study found that men who reported having insomnia or who slept for short periods of time were more likely to die over a 14-year period than men who slept well.

"Insomnia has potentially very severe side effects," says study co-author Edward Bixler, Ph.D. "It needs to be treated, and more effort needs to be put into sorting out better treatments."

How Much Sleep Are You Really Getting?

Previous research has looked at sleep's effects on lifespan, but the new study is unique. It takes into account both people's perceptions about how much sleep they are getting - which can be wrong - and the actual amount of sleep they got in a sleep lab.

Dr. Bixler and his colleagues studied 1,700 people from central Pennsylvania and followed the men (average age 50) for 14 years and the women (average age 47) for a decade.

The participants answered questions and spent a night in a sleep lab.

About a fifth of the men died during the study period, while 5 percent of the women died.

Dr. Bixler says one factor may be because women live longer than men and the study followed women for a shorter period.

The research team adjusted for factors such as sleep apnea. They found that self-described male insomniacs who slept fewer than six hours in the sleep lab were several times more likely to die during the 14-year period compared to "good sleepers."

Among men, about 9 percent of good sleepers died during the study period, compared to more than half -- 51 percent -- of insomniacs with short sleep duration.

Of all the people in the study, 8 percent of women and 4 percent of men both reported insomnia and had trouble getting much sleep in the lab.

Sleep's Role Requires More Study

Some evidence suggests lack of sleep may contribute to cardiovascular disease or disrupt the immune system, says Dr. B. Tucker Woodson, chief of the division of sleep medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

The researchers say that the study does not definitively prove that poor sleep will directly cause a man to die earlier, and that there could be other factors at play.

As for women, they are not in the clear, notes Dr. Bixler. Since they live longer, it may take a study of a longer duration to figure out whether they suffer from a similar effect.

Sleep experts agree that the relationship between a good night's sleep and length of life is important to understand and needs more study.

Always consult with your physician or other healthcare provider for more information.

Always consult your physician for more information.

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