Millions of Americans can cut risk of early death by getting enough sleep, research says

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Sleeping for less than six hours a day could increase the risk of an early death for millions of Americans, a new study published by the American Heart Association (AHA) suggests.

A research team at Penn State University tracked the health and cause of death of more than 1,600 adults aged 20 to 74 over a 20 year period, focusing on the relationship between sleep and conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

It found strong evidence to suggest that middle-aged adults with such concerns were at greater risk of early death if they did not get enough shut-eye.

In total, 512 participants died during the study – approximately a third (~33%) from heart disease or a stroke, and a quarter (~25%) from cancer – with those affected by high blood pressure or diabetes found to be twice as likely to die from heart disease or a stroke if they typically got less than six hours sleep.

Members of the cohort who had already suffered a stroke or contracted heart disease were three times as likely to die from cancer if they typically didn't clear the same sleep threshold, while those who did get enough sleep demonstrated a dramatically reduced risk of early death across both groups. 

Nearly 50% of Americans at risk

Furthermore, the AHA's report highlights that millions of Americans could be putting themselves unnecessarily at risk.

It notes that approximately 45% of Americans suffer from state 2 high blood pressure, diabetes or both – and 14% have suffered a stroke or are affected by heart disease.

These groups are unlikely to be mutually exclusive, but going on current estimates putting the US population at around 329 million people, that means that at least 175 million folks would benefit from actively keeping an eye on their slumber.

Fortunately, making sure you get enough rest has scarcely been easier, with many of the best smartwatches and best fitness trackers offering sleep tracking functionality to help you catch the right amount of sleep. 

For adults aged 18 to 60 years, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends at least seven hours of sleep per day. If you struggle to drop off quickly, use one of the best meditation apps to learn specific sleep meditations, or access soothing sounds, to help you drift off easier. You may also want to learn more bout the best mattress for different postural needs, and the best pillows for various sleep styles, such as side sleepers and stomach sleepers.

James Laird

A technology journalist with nearly 10 years of experience, James is the former News and Features Editor at Trusted Reviews, and has also served as regional Editor of Lifehacker. His articles have been spotted on sites ranging from The Sun to InStyle, but his true love is shiny things and the story behind them. An avid golfer in his spare time, you'll also regularly catch him hovering over the BBQ listening to Pearl Jam.