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VOLUME 27, ISSUE 03


A Prospective Study of Sleep Duration and Mortality Risk in Women

Sanjay R. Patel, MD1-3,5; Najib T. Ayas, MD, MPH6; Mark R. Malhotra1; David P. White, MD1,5; Eva S. Schernhammer, MD, DrPH2,3,5; Frank E. Speizer, MD2,5; Meir J. Stampfer, MD, DrPH2-5; Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD2-5

1Division of Sleep Medicine and 2Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Mass; Departments of 3Epidemiology and 4Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Mass; 5Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass; and 6Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia, and the Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Evaluation, Vancouver General Hospital, Vancouver, BC



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Study Objectives: It is commonly believed that 8 hours of sleep per night is optimal for good health. However, recent studies suggest the risk of death is lower in those sleeping 7 hours. We prospectively examined the association between sleep duration and mortality in women to better understand the effect of sleep duration on health. Design: Prospective observational study. Setting: Community-based. Participants: Women in the Nurses Health Study who answered a mailed questionnaire asking about sleep duration in 1986. Interventions: None. Measurements and Results: Vital status was ascertained through questionnaires, contact with next of kin, and the National Death Index. During the 14 years of this study (1986-2000), 5409 deaths occurred in the 82,969 women who responded to the initial questionnaire. Mortality risk was lowest among nurses reporting 7 hours of sleep per night. After adjusting for age, smoking, alcohol, exercise, depression, snoring, obesity, and history of cancer and cardiovascular disease, sleeping less than 6 hours or more than 7 hours remained associated with an increased risk of death. The relative mortality risk for sleeping 5 hours or less was 1.15 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.02-1.29) for 6 hours, 1.01 (95% CI, 0.94-1.08), for 7 hours, 1.00 (reference group), for 8 hours, 1.12 (95% CI, 1.05-1.20), and for 9 or more hours 1.42 (95% CI, 1.27-1.58). Conclusions: These results confirm previous findings that mortality risk in women is lowest among those sleeping 6 to 7 hours. Further research is needed to understand the mechanisms by which short and long sleep times can affect health.
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