Daytime Sleepiness Linked to Risk of Developing Diabetes, Cancer in Older Patients

Jennifer Nessel, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Friday, March 13th, 2020
Older patients who experience daytime sleepiness may be at risk of developing new medical conditions, including diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure. The findings were presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 72nd Annual Meeting in Toronto, Canada.
Hypersomnolence is known to be excessive daytime sleepiness despite having 7 or more hours of sleep. It can be debilitating for some individuals, affecting the way that they perform at work, and in other daily activities.
“Paying attention to sleepiness in older adults could help [providers] predict and prevent future medical conditions,” said study author, Maurice M. Ohayon, MD, PhD, DSc, researcher at Stanford University. “Older adults and their family members may want to take a closer look at sleeping habits to understand the potential risk for developing a more serious medical condition.”
The study included 10,903 individuals, and 34% of these participants were aged 65 years or older. The researchers interviewed participants over the phone twice, 3 years apart. In the first interview, 23% of individuals over age 65 years met the criteria for excessive sleepiness, whereas in the second interview, 24% reported excessive sleepiness, and of those, 41% said that sleepiness was a chronic problem.
Participants who reported sleepiness in the first phone interview had a 2.3 times greater risk of developing diabetes or high blood pressure 3 years later than those who did not experience sleepiness.
Of the people who reported sleepiness at the first interview, 6.2% developed diabetes, while 2.9% of respondents who were never sleepy during the day developed diabetes. Additionally, 2.4% of the individuals with daytime sleepiness developed cancer, compared to 0.8% of those who were not sleepy during the day.
The results remained the same after researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect daytime sleepiness, such as gender and sleep apnea. Those that reported daytime sleepiness during both interviews had a 2.5 times greater risk of developing heart disease.
Additionally, participants who reported sleepiness only in the second interview were 50% more likely to also have diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue, such as arthritis, tendinitis ,and lupus, than those who did not have daytime sleepiness.
The authors noted that a limitation of the study included a reliance on participant’s memories, rather than monitoring their sleep length and quality, and daytime sleepiness in a sleep clinic.
  1. Are Grandma, Grandpa Sleepy During the Day? They May Be at Risk for Diabetes, Cancer, More [news release]. Minneapolis, MN. Published March 1, 2020. Accessed March 10, 2020.

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