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Decline in REM Sleep Linked to Increased Mortality

In two independent cohorts, participants with lower REM sleep had increased mortality rate

woman sleeping

MONDAY, July 6, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- A reduction in the percentage of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is associated with increased mortality in middle-aged and older adults, according to a study published online July 6 in JAMA Neurology.

Eileen B. Leary, Ph.D., from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and colleagues conducted a multicenter population-based cross-sectional study to examine whether REM sleep is associated with mortality risk in two independent cohorts: the Outcomes of Sleep Disorders in Older Men (MrOS) Sleep Study (2,675 men followed for a median of 12.1 years) and Wisconsin Sleep Cohort (WSC; 1,386 individuals [54.3 percent men] followed for a median of 20.8 years).

The researchers found that after adjustment for multiple demographic, sleep, and health covariates, for every 5 percent reduction in REM sleep, MrOS participants had an increased mortality rate (age-adjusted hazard ratio, 1.12; fully adjusted hazard ratio, 1.13). Similar results were seen for cardiovascular and other causes of death. On Kaplan-Meier curves, possible threshold effects were seen, particularly for cancer; the rate of mortality was higher for individuals with <15 percent REM sleep versus those with ≥15 percent for each mortality outcome, with odds ratios ranging from 1.20 to 1.35. Despite younger age, inclusion of women, and longer follow-up, the results were replicated in the WSC cohort (hazard ratio, 1.13).

"Given the complex underlying biologic functions, further studies are required to understand whether the relationship is causal," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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