A recent study has found that chronic sleep deprivation and disability, specifically greater risk of difficulties with activities of daily living later in life, are linked in adults of all ages. Lead author Elliot Friedman and his team published their results in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
These results are critical in our current sleep deprived society. Right now about 20 percent of senior citizens have at least one limitation of their ability to perform the tasks of day to day living, and research suggests that this figure is actually accurate for the greater population. Furthermore, there is reason to believe that disabilities are underreported.
Reuters Health reports that Dr. Friedman said: “Most people don’t get sufficient sleep – as a culture we tend to devalue sleep – and we tend to underestimate the potential impact of not getting adequate sleep.”
Past research has connected poor health and poor sleep, but this is the first research to confirm a connection between chronic sleep deprivation and disability — in other words, a connection between sleep deprivation and daily functioning.
Friedman, a gerontologist at Purdue University, assessed data from 3,620 people who were between 24 and 75 years old when the study started. The first study years were from 1995 to 1996 and then 2004 to 2006. Study participants reported sleep issues and any disturbances in their ability to handle daily living and instrumental tasks. These kinds of tasks included things like bending over, dressing, carrying groceries, bathing, climbing stairs, walking one block, walking for up to a mile, vacuuming, or running.
The results of both surveys showed that around 11 percent of the people said they had chronic sleep issues. Ten years later, poor sleepers were 28 percent more likely to have more trouble with instrumental tasks and 55 percent more likely to have more limited on daily life activities. Of the participants who were not disabled at the time of the first survey, ten years later, poor sleepers were having issues with tasks of daily living two times more often and 70 percent more likely to have issues with instrumental tasks.
The researchers investigated other demographic factors as potential influences on disability, including obesity, health conditions, and smoking, to eliminate them as possible causes and confirm the link between chronic sleep deprivation and disability. When it came to daily living tasks, age had no affect. For more advanced instrumental tasks, younger and middle aged people who were poor sleepers declined more.
Friedman believes that this may be because, “If sleep is not restful, people are less likely to be physically active, and both low physical activity and sedentary behavior are risk factors for disability.” In addition, poor sleep is also connected to inflammation and obesity, both of which are in turn linked to disability risk.