Consistent sleep can avoid heart diseases, new study finds

Did you know that aside from eating healthy food and doing exercise, having a consistent sleep schedule is essential for maintaining a healthy heart? 

We don’t just mean a complete, full, and comfortable sleep. Aside from getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night, older adults who follow a consistent sleep routine every day are more likely to avoid heart disease.

A new study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, examined data from 2,000 adults over 45 and found results that were consistent with previous research.

“Our results add to growing evidence from recent studies that have connected irregular sleep patterns to cardiovascular risk in the general population,” said Kelsie M. Full, PhD, MPH, a co-author of the study and an assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

How does inconsistent sleep affect heart health?

Having no consistent sleep raises the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, coronary heart diseases, heart failure, heart attack, irregular heart rate, stroke, obesity and diabetes. 

Working at night and having a hard time adjusting your body clock? Shift work has also been linked to an increased risk of diabetes and depression, both of which may contribute to heart disease. The study also finds that working night shifts may increase the risk of heart disease especially for people who already have high blood pressure.

How does sleep affect blood pressure?

Blood pressure drops by 10-20% during normal and consistent sleep. This is known as nocturnal dipping, and research has shown that it has a positive impact on cardiovascular health.

Poor sleep, whether due to a lack of consistent sleep or disruptions in sleep, is associated with non-dipping, which means that a person’s blood pressure does not drop at night. Elevated nighttime blood pressure has been linked to overall hypertension in studies.

How does sleep affect coronary heart diseases?

Coronary heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United Kingdom. It is also known as coronary artery disease and occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries, hardening and narrowing them as a result of atherosclerosis. This reduces the heart’s ability to receive enough blood and oxygen.

Inconsistent sleep and deprivation has been linked to atherosclerosis, according to research above. Plaque forms as a result of inflammation, which causes white blood cells produced by the immune system to accumulate in the arteries. Inadequate sleep causes chronic inflammation, which contributes to plaque formation and artery hardening.

How does sleep affect heart failures?

Heart failure occurs when the heart does not pump enough blood to supply the body with the necessary blood and oxygen. An observational study involving over 400,000 people discovered strong links between sleeping problems and heart failure.

eople who slept for less than seven hours per night had an increased risk of heart failure in that study. Heart failure was also more common in people who had other signs of poor sleep, such as insomnia, daytime sleepiness, snoring, and preferring to sleep in the evening.

How does sleep affect heart attacks?

A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, occurs when the blood flow to the heart becomes obstructed. Because of the damage that occurs when the heart does not receive enough oxygen, heart attacks can be fatal.

Not having consistent sleep also increases the risk of having a heart attack. In one study, people who slept for less than six hours per night had a 20% increased risk of having a heart attack. While NREM sleep assists the heart in slowing down and recovering, REM sleep involves increased stress and activity. Inadequate sleep can throw off the balance of these stages, increasing the risk of a heart attack.

How does sleep affect stroke?

When blood flow to the brain is interrupted, brain cells die due to a lack of oxygen. When a blood clot or plaque blocks an artery, an ischemic stroke occurs. A transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke, is a brief blockage of the blood vessels.

Abnormal sleep raises blood pressure, and high blood pressure is thought to be the leading cause of strokes. Inadequate sleep may also make it easier for blockages to occur and cause mini-strokes or strokes by contributing to plaque buildup in the arteries.

How does sleep affect obesity?

Obesity and overweight are strongly linked to a variety of cardiovascular and metabolic issues, including hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Therefore, not having consistent sleep is also linked to obesity, with people who sleep less than seven hours per night more likely to have a higher BMI or be obese. Sleep regulates the hormones that control hunger, and a lack of sleep or sleep disturbances can lead to overeating and an increased desire for high-calorie foods.

How does sleep affect Type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the blood sugar level, also known as blood glucose, is abnormally high due to the body’s inability to properly process sugar. Excess blood glucose damages blood vessels, which has a negative impact on cardiovascular health. Diabetes patients are twice as likely as non-diabetics to die from heart disease or stroke.

Many factors influence blood sugar levels, but studies have shown having no consistent sleep impairs glucose metabolism. Sleep deprivation is linked to prediabetes, a type of glucose intolerance that does not meet the criteria for diabetes.

How does sleep affect heart rate?

Poor sleep, including abrupt awakenings, can cause a significant increase in heart rate. According to research, people who have trouble sleeping are more likely to have an irregular heartbeat. For these reasons, sleep deprivation may be linked to heart palpitations.

Furthermore, a study of older adults discovered that people who have frequent nightmares are much more likely to report having an irregular heartbeat. Nightmares can cause an increase in heart rate, and if a person’s sleep is disrupted by a nightmare, they may wake up with their heart racing.

Sleeping Tips: Good Sleep Habits

  • If you’re wondering how to get consistent sleep, you should first set your own bedtime schedule at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning, even on weekends.
  • Get plenty of natural light, particularly early in the day. Try going for a walk in the morning or at lunchtime.
  • Get plenty of physical activity throughout the day. Avoid exercising within a few hours of going to bed.
  • Avoid using artificial light, especially within a few hours of going to bed. On your computer or smartphone, use a blue light filter.
  • Avoid eating or drinking within a few hours of going to bed, especially alcohol and foods high in fat or sugar.
  • Maintain a cool, dark, and quiet bedroom.

In conclusion, having a consistent sleep schedule is good for the health. The circadian clock genes regulate almost all cardiovascular functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, and endothelial function. If our sleep cycle is too short, disrupted, or irregular, our heart cannot fully benefit from the rest it does receive.

Just like we talk about eating a healthy diet to minimise your cholesterol and maintain your heart health, prioritising your sleep health is important for your overall well-being. So go, and recharge your heart by setting your alarms and having a consistent sleep schedule starting tonight!