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Sleep and physical activity in relation to all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality risk


Objectives Although both physical inactivity and poor sleep are deleteriously associated with mortality, the joint effects of these two behaviours remain unknown. This study aimed to investigate the joint association of physical activity (PA) and sleep with all-cause and cause-specific mortality risks.

Methods 380 055 participants aged 55.9 (8.1) years (55% women) from the UK Biobank were included. Baseline PA levels were categorised as high, medium, low and no moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) based on current public health guidelines. We categorised sleep into healthy, intermediate and poor with an established composited sleep score of chronotype, sleep duration, insomnia, snoring and daytime sleepiness. We derived 12 PA–sleep combinations, accordingly. Mortality risks were ascertained to May 2020 for all-cause, total cardiovascular disease (CVD), CVD subtypes (coronary heart disease, haemorrhagic stroke, ischaemic stroke), as well as total cancer and lung cancer.

Results After an average follow-up of 11.1 years, sleep scores showed dose-response associations with all-cause, total CVD and ischaemic stroke mortality. Compared with high PA-healthy sleep group (reference), the no MVPA-poor sleep group had the highest mortality risks for all-cause (HR (95% CIs), (1.57 (1.35 to 1.82)), total CVD (1.67 (1.27 to 2.19)), total cancer (1.45 (1.18 to 1.77)) and lung cancer (1.91 (1.30 to 2.81))). The deleterious associations of poor sleep with all outcomes, except for stroke, was amplified with lower PA.

Conclusion The detrimental associations of poor sleep with all-cause and cause-specific mortality risks are exacerbated by low PA, suggesting likely synergistic effects. Our study supports the need to target both behaviours in research and clinical practice.

  • cohort study
  • risk factor
  • sleep

Data availability statement

Due to the personal nature of the health data collected from participants, no data are available to be shared.

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