People who have trouble sleeping are at higher risk of dying than those without sleep problems, especially if they diabetic, a new study has suggested.

Researchers examined data from half a million middle-aged UK participants who were asked if they had trouble falling asleep at night or woke up in the middle of the night.

The research found that people with frequent sleep problems are at a higher risk of dying than those without sleep problems.

During the nine years of the research, the study found that people with Type 2 diabetes were 87% more likely to die of any cause than people without diabetes or sleep disturbances.

The study also found people with diabetes and sleep problems were 12% more likely to die over this period than those who had diabetes but not frequent sleep disturbances.

Malcolm von Schantz, the first author of the study and professor of chronobiology from the University of Surrey, said: “Although we already knew that there is a strong link between poor sleep and poor health, this illustrates the problem starkly.

“The question asked when the participants enrolled does not necessarily distinguish between insomnia and other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnoea.

“Still, from a practical point of view it doesn’t matter.

“Doctors should take sleep problems as seriously as other risk factors and work with their patients on reducing and mitigating their overall risk.”

Professor Kristen Knutson, of Northwestern University, the senior co-author of the study, said: “Diabetes alone was associated with a 67% increased risk of mortality.

“However, the mortality for participants with diabetes combined with frequent sleep problems was increased to 87%.

“In order words, it is particularly important for doctors treating people with diabetes to also investigate sleep disorders and consider treatments where appropriate.”

The authors analysed existing data of nearly half a million middle-aged participants in the UK Biobank Study.

To their knowledge, it is the first study to examine the effect of the combination of insomnia and diabetes on mortality risk.

The study, published in the Journal of Sleep Research, notes a limitation of the research was that participants were only asked one question – do you have trouble falling asleep at night or do you wake up in the middle of the night?

Researchers say this did not not assess daytime consequences and the disturbances are not equivalent to a clinically diagnosed insomnia disorder.