Sleep irregularities linked to chronic conditions

A man is shown awake while trying to go to sleep.

An observational study with more than 3,000 adults found that those who experienced insomnia symptoms or took frequent naps were more likely to develop chronic conditions compared to adults who got adequate sleep. These findings published in Psychosomatic Medicine and were supported by NHLBI and the National Institute on Aging. 

As part of the study, researchers assessed the sleep patterns of participants between 2004-2006 and 2013-2017. Participants answered questions about their sleep and were categorized into one of four groups: those who got adequate or good sleep, people who experienced symptoms of insomnia or had problems sleeping, people who took frequent naps, and people who slept more on the weekends. The sleep patterns at the beginning of the study remained consistent a decade later for many adults, especially for those with insomnia symptoms or who took regular naps. 

Compared to participants who got good sleep, those who had problems sleeping were more likely to report having cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or being frail. Similar associations emerged with people who took daytime naps and reported having diabetes, cancer, or frailty. Outside factors, including employment and education, overlapped with insomnia symptoms. People who took daytime naps were also more likely be older or retired. The researchers emphasized the importance of identifying ways to support optimal sleep patterns early in life, while addressing social determinants of health.