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Waking up early increases the risk of death, but not for everyone

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Posted June 18, 2019

Our modern world is moving at an incredible pace. This means that we also have to hustle. Many people are waking up with a sound of an alarm clock, sometimes incredibly early. But is it healthy? Scientists from UCL conducted a study looking at sleep and mortality from across different ethnic groups and found early waking can be linked to heart disease deaths in white Europeans.

Waking up early increases the risk of dying in white European population, but scientists still cannot explain why is that. Image credit: Ales Krivec via Wikimedia

Scientists analysed self-reported sleeping data of 4000 people, aged 40-69 years. This large group included first generation migrant South Asian and African Caribbean men and women as well as white Europeans. Participants had to answer various questions about being tires, sleeping and difficulty waking up. Data was collected in the period between 1988 and 1991, which makes it possible to find associations between answers and mortality of the participants.

For example, scientists asked participants about that all-familiar feeling of waking up tired. It turns out, there is no association between it and mortality. However, waking up early did increase the risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases.

Interestingly, this effect could only be observed in white european population. Even taking into account other risk factors, such as smoking, white europeans were 1.3 times more likely to die from cardiovascular-related causes if they were waking up early, compared to  people of African Caribbean or South Asian descent. Meanwhile difficulty of falling asleep couldn’t be linked to increased risk of death from cancer or cardiovascular diseases – scientists found weak association in South Asians, but it was too insubstantial to make any conclusions.

But why waking up early would have such an effect? Sadly, scientists do not know – they need to launch new researches to unravel the mysteries of the mechanism behind this phenomenon. This is one of the new directions for researches in this field. Another one is that little association between difficulty falling asleep and increased risk of death in South Asians – scientists have to conduct this study with more people to confirm or deny these results.

Dr Victoria Garfield, joint first author of the study, said: “Our findings contribute to and support current evidence for ethnic differences in sleep and mortality and may have important implications for precision medicine and clinicians working with people who present with these sleep problems”.

Waking up early is sometimes inevitable. However, you should strive to take better care of yourself. Sleep more, eat better, exercise and drink plenty of water. You will feel better, you will be more productive and maybe you won’t even need to wake up so early anymore.

 

Source: UCL

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