Sleep duration associated with mortality in elderly, but not middle-aged, adults in a large US sample

Sleep. 2008 Aug;31(8):1087-96.


Study objectives: To explore age differences in the relationship between sleep duration and mortality by conducting analyses stratified by age. Both short and long sleep durations have been found to be associated with mortality. Short sleep duration is associated with negative health outcomes, but there is little evidence that long sleep duration has adverse health effects. No epidemiologic studies have published multivariate analyses stratified by age, even though life expectancy is 75 years and the majority of deaths occur in the elderly.

Design: Multivariate longitudinal analyses of the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey using Cox proportional hazards models.

Setting: Probability sample (n = 9789) of the civilian noninstitutionalized population of the United States between 1982 and 1992.

Participants: Subjects aged 32 to 86 years.

Measurements and results: In multivariate analyses controlling for many covariates, no relationship was found in middle-aged subjects between short sleep of 5 hours or less and mortality (hazards ratio [HR] = 0.67, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.43-1.05) or long sleep of 9 hours or more and mortality (HR = 1.04, 95% CI 0.66-1.65). A U-shaped relationship was found only in elderly subjects, with both short sleep duration (HR = 1.27, 95% CI 1.06-1.53) and long sleep duration (HR = 1.36, 95% CI 1.15-1.60) having significantly higher HRs.

Conclusions: The relationship between sleep duration and mortality is largely influenced by deaths in elderly subjects and by the measurement of sleep durations closely before death. Long sleep duration is unlikely to contribute toward mortality but, rather, is a consequence of medical conditions and age-related sleep changes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cause of Death*
  • Comorbidity
  • Disorders of Excessive Somnolence / mortality*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors
  • Sampling Studies
  • Sleep Deprivation / mortality*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / mortality*
  • United States