Epidemiologic studies have shown that sleep duration is associated with overall mortality. We conducted a systematic review of the associations between sleep duration and all-cause and cause-specific mortality. PubMed was systematically searched up to January, 2008 to identify studies examining the association between sleep duration and mortality (both all-cause and cause-specific) among adults. Data were abstracted serially in a standardized manner by two reviewers and analyzed using random-effects meta-analysis. Twenty-three studies assessing the associations between sleep duration and mortality were identified. All examined sleep duration measured using participant self-report. Among the 16 studies which had similar reference categories and reported sufficient data on short sleep and mortality for meta-analyses, the pooled relative risk (RR) for all-cause mortality for short sleep duration was 1.10 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.06, 1.15]. For cardiovascular-related and cancer-related mortality, the RRs associated with short sleep were 1.06 (95% CI: 0.94, 1.18) and 0.99 (95% CI: 0.88, 1.13), respectively. Similarly, among the 17 studies reporting data on long sleep duration and mortality, the pooled RRs comparing the long sleepers with medium sleepers were 1.23 (95% CI: 1.17, 1.30) for all-cause mortality, 1.38 (95% CI: 1.13, 1.69) for cardiovascular-related mortality, and 1.21 (95% CI: 1.11, 1.32) for cancer-related mortality. Our findings indicate that both short sleepers and long sleepers are at increased risk of all-cause mortality. Further research using objective measures of sleep duration is needed to fully characterize these associations.