Sleep duration and total and cause-specific mortality in a large US cohort: interrelationships with physical activity, sedentary behavior, and body mass index

Am J Epidemiol. 2014 Nov 15;180(10):997-1006. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwu222. Epub 2014 Oct 3.


Both short and long durations of sleep are associated with higher mortality, but little is known about the interrelationship between sleep and other modifiable factors in relation to mortality. In the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study (1995-1996), we examined associations between sleep duration and total, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and cancer mortality among 239,896 US men and women aged 51-72 years who were free of cancer, CVD, and respiratory disease. We evaluated the influence of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, television viewing, and body mass index (BMI; weight (kg)/height (m)(2)) on the sleep-mortality association and assessed their combined association with mortality. During an average of 14 years of follow-up, we identified 44,100 deaths. Compared with 7-8 hours of sleep per day, both shorter and longer sleep durations were associated with higher total and CVD mortality. We found a greater elevation in CVD mortality associated with shorter sleep among overweight and obese people, suggesting a synergistic interaction between sleep and BMI. People in the unhealthy categories of all 4 risk factors (sleep <7 hours/day, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity ≤1 hour/week, television viewing ≥3 hours/day, and BMI ≥25) had significantly higher all-cause (relative risk (RR) = 1.42, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.34, 1.52), CVD (RR = 1.90, 95% CI: 1.67, 2.17), and cancer (RR = 1.21, 95% CI: 1.09, 1.34) mortality. Short sleep duration may predict higher mortality, particularly CVD mortality, among overweight and obese people.

Keywords: body mass index; mortality; physical activity; sedentary behavior; sleep; sleep duration.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Overweight / complications
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Sleep*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology