Sleep Patterns Linked to Heart Health

Frequently, when we talk about poor sleep harming heart health, we mean too little sleep. However, new research says that poor sleep patterns may play a significant role too.

Sleep is imperative for heart health. A lack of sleep has been linked to coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Not getting enough deep sleep is related to high blood pressure and other heart health risks.

Studies have looked at the impact of naps. A recent study looking at almost 3,500 people for five years found that, “Individuals who were napping maybe two or three times a week had improved cardiovascular events and a lowering of these cardiovascular events, compared to those who weren’t napping or napping more frequently,” said Dr. Reena Mehra, of Cleveland Clinic.

Additionally, people who napped for long times had heightened heart risk. At the same time, power-nappers were at a lower risk of heart problems. They believed that perhaps it was because people who take short, occasional naps do so for pleasure as opposed to people who need naps because of poor sleep.

We usually recommend not napping,” said Dr. Mehra. “If you don’t have any underlying sleep disorders, when you nap, you no longer have that sleep pressure to fall asleep when it’s time to fall asleep during the nighttime.”

New research is showing that poor sleep patterns — as well as duration — may be linked to heart health as well. That might explain why people who nap occasionally don’t harm their health: they are already sleeping normally at night. People without bedtimes have a higher risk for CVD. Whether or not they got enough sleep, their lack of a schedule negatively impacted them.

The researchers found that participants with the most irregular sleep duration or timing had more than double the risk of developing a CVD event over the follow-up period compared to those with the most regular sleep patterns,” according to the study report. Comparing people who went to bed within the same 30-minute timeframe nightly to people who varied by more than 90 minutes found that the people with variable bedtimes were twice as likely to develop a heart problem.

Your body’s circadian rhythm impacts inflammation. That can lead to artery constriction and cholesterol buildup. “A proper sleep pattern and duration may be just as important as medical therapy and represents an additive benefit to medication to reduce the chance of heart attack,” said Dr. Guy Mintz, director of cardiovascular health and lipidology at Northwell Health’s Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital.

Setting a bedtime and sticking to it might be critical to a healthy heart. “We hope that our study will help raise awareness about the potential importance of a regular sleep pattern in improving heart health. It is a new frontier in sleep medicine,” said Dr. Tianyi Huang at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who led the research. The researchers say that their discovery could put sleep patterns and schedules on par with exercise, lifestyle and diet as ways to preemptively help the heart.

While it might feel odd to have a bedtime like a child, it could be a considerable preventative measure for your heart health. Try to ease into it by turning off screens and drinking comforting beverages at the same time every evening. Soon, you may find yourself going to bed at the same time nightly. If that doesn’t work, set an alarm that’s for bedtime instead of the time you need to raise the next morning!
March 12, 2020
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