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The way in which all Americans sleep can be divided into one of four categories, according to a major new study.

And those in two of the groups are at least 30 percent more likely to develop a range of conditions – including heart disease, cancerdiabetes and depression.

Scientists at the Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development tracked the sleep habits of nearly 3,700 participants over the course of a decade.

Using historic national data, from the Midlife in the United States Study (MIDUS), they looked at how middle-aged participants rated their own sleep between the years of 2004 to 2014. 

They were attempting to determine how people’s sleep patterns changed as they aged, and how that might relate to developing chronic conditions. 

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The Penn State analysis showed that each participant fell into one of four distinct categories: good sleepers, weekend catch-up sleepers, insomnia sleepers and nappers.


Good sleepers reported sleeping long, consistent hours and feeling satisfied with their sleep and alert during the day. 

Weekend catch-up sleepers were those individuals who got irregular, or shorter sleep, during the week, but longer sleeps on the weekends.


Over half of the participants fell into the two worst sleep categories: insomniacs and nappers. 

Insomnia sleepers had a hard time falling asleep and got less sleep overall, compared to the other cohorts. Insomniacs reported feeling more tired during the day, and less happy with their sleep.


 The final sleep category identified was nappers. These participants were pretty consistent nighttime sleepers, but reported taking frequent daytime naps.

The Penn State team then looked for patterns of disease risk among the different sleep groups. They controlled for other contributing factors, such as underlying health conditions, socioeconomic factors and working environment.

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Shocking graphic shows the impact of one night of poor sleep, which can cause your brain to function at a slower rate, impacting concentration, while a person’s sex drive can also plummet due to exhaustion

They found insomniacs had a 28 to 81 percent higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and depression, compared to good sleepers.

Nappers also had a 128 percent increased risk for diabetes, compared to good sleepers, and a 62 percent increased risk for frailty. 


Experts say the latter finding may be due to the fact napping frequency increased with age.  

Previous studies have found that getting too little sleep can increase the risk of developing dementia, having a stroke, heart attack and liver disease. One study found that about 83 percent of people with depression also have insomnia.    


According to the CDC, inadequate sleep means your body and mind doesn’t have as much time to repair and recuperate from the day’s stress – and chronic stress has been shown to be a factor in a number of diseases.

And though it’s counterintuitive, doctors have also flagged the risks of getting too much sleep. 

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Oversleeping, like that you find in the napping group, has been associated with increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression and headaches, according to Johns Hopkins University.  

Some studies have suggested that the napping doesn’t trigger the diabetes, but the other way round is true: the condition can elicit tiredness that increases the need to nap. 


Although health conditions were controlled for in the new study, it may be that some participants were undiagnosed. 

Another theory is that those who nap tend to have a higher BMI, and are therefore at higher risk of the condition, and another is that sleeping too much increases inflammation in the body. 


Those who nap regularly are up to 128 percent more likely to develop diabetes, according to the new study.

Those who nap regularly are up to 128 percent more likely to develop diabetes, according to the new study.

There are also demographic factors that help explain these patterns, according to study author Soomi Lee, director of the Sleep, Stress, and Health laboratory at Penn State.

Unemployed people and those with less education were more likely to fall into the insomniac category, Lee found. A previous study from the University of Glasgow reported similar results- unemployed people tended to get worse sleep than employed people. 

This is evidence, Lee said in a University press release, that environmental factors may play a large role in sleep quality. 


‘These results may suggest that it is very difficult to change our sleep habits because sleep health is embedded into our overall lifestyle. 

‘It may also suggest that people still don’t know about the importance of their sleep and about sleep health behaviors.’

This also means that there are things you might be able to do to change your patterns and reduce your risk of developing sleep-related problems.

‘We need to make more efforts to educate the public about good sleep health. There are sleep hygiene behaviors that people could do to improve their sleep, such as not using cell phones in bed, exercising regularly and avoiding caffeine in the late afternoon,’ she said.  

Daily Mail UK

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