Can lack of sleep be harmful?

Can A lack of sleep be harmful?
Ever since my husband died last year, I just don’t sleep well.  Every little sound wakes me up.  Sometimes I think that trouble sleeping is just part of being 78 years old and it won’t cause me any harm.  Is that true?


Issues such as health and medication can cause seniors to have more problems sleeping.  And lack of sleep can begin to take its toll on older adults.  Sleeping less than seven and a half hours per day may be associated with potential risk of heart disease for older people, according to a report in Archives of Internal Medicine in the US.

In addition, a combination of little sleep and overnight elevated blood pressure appears to be associated with an increased risk of the disease.

Getting adequate sleep is essential to preventing health conditions such as obesity and diabetes as well as several risk factors for cardiovascular disease including sleep-disordered breathing and night-time hypertension (high blood pressure).  But, the evidence has been growing that changes in modern lifestyle are causing people to get less sleep.

This study monitored the sleep of 1,255 individuals with hypertension (94 percent) and followed them for an average of 50 months.  Their average age was 70.4 years with a range of 33 to 97 years; there were 476 men and 779 women.

Researchers noted patients’ sleep duration, daytime and night time blood pressure and cardiovascular disease events such as stroke, heart attack and sudden cardiac death.

During follow-up, 99 cardiovascular disease events occurred.  Sleep duration of less than 7.5 hours was associated with incident cardiovascular disease.

Studies such as this point out the need to see a doctor who can determine if there are medications or issues that are making it difficult for you to get a good night’s rest.  If so, your physician should be able to help.

If there is no underlying medical cause you may like to consider getting a relative, friend or caregiver to sleep over for a couple of nights each week. Having someone else in the house overnight could put your mind at rest and help you get a good night’s sleep.

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