Association of Rapid Eye Movement #Sleep With Mortality in Middle-aged and Older Adults

Rapid eye movement (#REM) sleep has been linked with health outcomes, but little is known about the relationship between REM sleep and mortality..

..The MrOS cohort included 2675 individuals (2675 men [100%]; mean [SD] age, 76.3 [5.5] years) and was followed up for a median (interquartile range) of 12.1 (7.8-13.2) years. The WSC cohort included 1386 individuals (753 men [54.3%]; mean [SD] age, 51.5 [8.5] years) and was followed up for a median (interquartile range) of 20.8 (17.9-22.4) years.

MrOS participants had a 13% higher mortality rate for every 5% reduction in REM sleep (percentage REM sleep SD = 6.6%) after adjusting for multiple demographic, sleep, and health covariates (age-adjusted hazard ratio, 1.12; fully adjusted hazard ratio, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.08-1.19). Results were similar for cardiovascular and other causes of death. Possible threshold effects were seen on the Kaplan-Meier curves, particularly for cancer; individuals with less than 15% REM sleep had a higher mortality rate compared with individuals with 15% or more for each mortality outcome with odds ratios ranging from 1.20 to 1.35. Findings were replicated in the WSC cohort despite younger age, inclusion of women, and longer follow-up (hazard ratio, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.08-1.19). A random forest model identified REM sleep as the most important sleep stage associated with survival.

Conclusions and Relevance Decreased percentage REM sleep was associated with greater risk of all-cause, cardiovascular, and other noncancer-related mortality in 2 independent cohorts.