Recently, a new study conducted by researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston explores the potential association between sleeping patterns of a person and the risk for developing cardiovascular disease in the future.
Previously, research has identified a number of health issues that have been linked to disturbed sleep patterns. Not getting enough sleep can not only cause temporary effects such as mood swings and headaches but can lead to long-term health problems.
In fact, studies have linked disturbed sleep patterns to health issues such as diabetes, obesity, blood pressure problems including hypertension, and depression.
Therefore, health experts emphasize the importance of getting the recommended hours of sleep on a daily basis as well as maintaining a similar sleep pattern.
However, it has been observed that more and more young adults are living a lifestyle with increased workload and stress which, in turn, affects their sleep cycles.
At the same time, heart disease, which is the leading cause of death around the globe, is also becoming more common. Hence, some studies have looked at the potential connection between both of the factors.
The new study, whose findings appear in the Journal of American College of Cardiology, looks further on the connection. The leading author, Tianyi Huang, says:
“When we talk about interventions to prevent heart attacks and stroke, we focus on diet and exercise. Even when we talk about sleep, we tend to focus on duration — how many hours a person sleeps each night — but not on sleep irregularity and the impact of going to bed at different times, or sleeping different amounts from night to night.”
He adds “Our study indicates that healthy sleep isn’t just about quantity but also about variability and that this can have an important effect on heart health.”
In order to investigate the connection between cardiovascular disease and disturbed sleeping patterns, the researchers looked at data from 1,992 people. All of these participants were either in their 60s or 70s and did not have a diagnosis of any heart condition.
The data was sourced from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis which had participants from multiple ethnicities from Hispanic to African-Americans.
The participants were required to wear an actigraph unit which is a device worn on the wrist for looking at sleeping patterns for a period of seven days. There were also follow-up observations for nearly five years by the researchers.
During the period of time, one hundred and eleven of the total participants experienced a cardiovascular event. The researchers noted that participants with a gap of two hours between their daily sleeping schedules had a higher risk of developing heart disease.
More specifically, there was a twofold increase with a difference of two hours and more in the participants. The results remained the same even after other risk factors for cardiovascular disease were adjusted. However, the researchers stated:
“Although we also observed that participants with irregular sleep tended to have worse cardiometabolic risk profiles at baseline, adjustment for established [cardiovascular disease] risk factors (e.g., blood pressure, lipids, diabetes, etc.) only explained a small portion of the associations between sleep irregularity and [cardiovascular disease] risk,”
On the other hand, the researchers also noted that further investigation can add to these findings and may explore the possibility of a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease with better sleep patterns.