Sleep Irregularities and Heart Disease

More and Less – Both Harmful A recent scientific endeavour has revealed that adults who get less than six hours of sleep a night are at significantly greater risk of stroke, heart attack and congestive heart failure.Even those who reportedly sleep more than eight hours a night have a higher prevalence of heart problems, namely chest pain (angina) and coronary artery disease, a narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. While these findings echo those from previous,

smaller studies, investigators say this is the first nationally representative sample to find an association between sleep duration and heart health, and the first to look at five different conditions at one time. Researchers retrospectively studied approximately 3,019 patients over the age of 45 years who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a survey that assessed a broad range of health issues. Analyses showed that people getting too little sleep were two times more likely to have a stroke or heart attack and 1.6 times more likely to have congestive heart failure. Those reporting more than eight hours of sleep a night were two times more likely to have angina and 1.1 times more likely to have coronary artery disease. The Ideal Hours Based on these findings, it seems getting six to eight hours of sleep everyday probably confers the least risk for cardiovascular disease over the long term. Insufficient sleep has previously been linked to the hyper-activation of the sympathetic nervous system, glucose intolerance, diabetes and an increase in cortisone levels, blood pressure, resting heart rate and inflammatory markers – all of which are associated with cardiovascular disease. However, researchers are still unclear as to why longer sleep duration might be linked to heart problems. It is being speculated that the people sleeping more than eight hours, who report chest pains to their doctor, may have been given a greater clinical workup than people getting less than six hours of sleep, who are not presenting chest pains, which may explain why there are more significant cardiovascular events in this group. However, this has to be evaluated in future long-term studies. Prevention Needs Proactive Action In addition, unknown factors not yet elucidated and other co-morbid conditions like diabetes mellitus, obesity or hypertension may cause higher risk in those sleeping under six hours. What is clear is the need for clinicians and patients to talk about sleep patterns, especially with those who are already at greater risk for heart disease. It’s a really simple thing to assess as part of a physical exam, it doesn’t cost anything and it may help encourage patients to adopt better sleep habits. The scientists also noted that larger prospective studies are needed to confirm these findings.