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Do Bad Sleeping Habits Cause Heart Disease?

October 21, 2016
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The American Heart Association posed an interesting question in their September journal Circulation: “Could sleep disorders be linked to factors that increase the risk of heart disease?” In Circulation, researchers offer an overview on what is known about sleep issues and cardiovascular-related risks. It also questions if improving sleep habits could lower the chance of heart disease. “We know that short sleep, usually defined as under 7 hours per night, overly long sleep, usually defined as more than 9 hours per night, and sleep disorders may increase some cardiovascular risk factors, but we don’t know if improving sleep quality reduces those risk factors,” said Marie-Pierre St-Onge, a panel member on the science behind heart disease and sleep disorders. St-Onge is also an associate professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University. Currently, there is not enough evidence for the American Heart Association to recommend an average amount of sleep time for cardiovascular health. However, sleeping too much or too little at night has its own list of health consequences. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the risks associated with less than six hours of sleep include:
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Irregular heartbeat (Arrhythmia)
  • Stroke
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Narrowed arteries (Atherosclerosis)
Oversleeping is not much different. The risk of dying from a coronary artery disease is identical for both sleeping habits. Around 29.1 million American adults sleep less than seven hours every night. Additionally, around 50-70 million Americans suffer from subsequent chronic sleep disorders. With so many individuals at a potential risk for cardiovascular issues, the American Heart Association asserted the need for more research. “Since the scientific evidence doesn’t show a specific dose/response relationship between sleep duration and cardiovascular wellness, [we] cannot offer specific advice on how much sleep is needed to protect people from cardiovascular disease,” St-Onge added. Most research on sleep focuses on sleep disorders and heart disease, like insomnia and sleep apnea. The relationship between obesity and bed habits is also a prevalent subject, but it is harder to find studies on the reduction of heart disease through proper sleep. St-Onge notes that longer studies should be conducted on sleep variations and their affect on blood cholesterol, inflammatory markers and triglycerides in patients. In the meantime, the National Sleep Foundation offers these tips for a healthy bedtime routine including:
  • Stick to a uniform sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even if it is the weekend.
  • Start a relaxing bedtime routine. Choose activities that do not involve bright lights like cell phones, and avoid routines that cause your body excitement or stress.
  • Avoid naps. The National Sleep Foundation says this is most important if you have a hard time going to sleep at night.
  • Change your sleep environment. Analyze your room. Is it loud? Is light shining at early morning? Noise and lighting directly affects the quality of sleep you get. Consider buying curtains to block out the sun or earplugs to muffle sound.
  • Consider the temperature. The ideal temperature for sleep is around 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. If your bedroom is any warmer or colder, it may hinder your sleep.
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