Having a good night’s sleep improves heart health

Having a good night’s sleep improves heart health
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New research finds that individuals who have a good night’s sleep have better heart health, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

According to new research presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2022 illuminates that nine in ten people do not enjoy a good night’s sleep. This staggering figure was associated with poor heart health, including an increased likelihood of heart disease and stroke. Moreover, the researchers estimated that seven in ten cardiovascular conditions are preventable if everyone was a good sleeper.

“The low prevalence of good sleepers was expected given our busy, 24/7 lives,” said study author Dr Aboubakari Nambiema of INSERM (the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research), Paris, France. “The importance of sleep quality and quantity for heart health should be taught early in life when healthy behaviours become established. Minimising night-time noise and stress at work can both help improve sleep.”

The impact of sleep on heart health

To conduct their study, the researchers recruited 7,200 participants from the Paris Prospective Study III (PPP3), an observational community-based prospective cohort. Both men and women aged 50 to 75 years with no cardiovascular disease present were recruited to the study between 2008 and 2011. The average age was 59.7 years, and 62% were men. Participants underwent a physical examination and completed life, personal, family medical history, and medical conditions questionnaires.

The questionnaires collected information on five sleep habits at baseline and two follow-up visits. Each factor was allocated one point if optimal and 0 if not. A healthy sleep score ranging from zero to five was calculated, with 0 or one considered poor and five considered optimal. Those with an optimal score reported sleeping seven to eight hours per night, never or rarely having insomnia, no frequent excessive daytime sleepiness, no sleep apnoea, and an early chronotype (being a morning person). The researchers checked their heart health and for incident coronary heart disease and stroke every two years for ten years.

Increased cardiovascular conditions

At baseline, 10% of the participants had an optimal sleep score, and 8% had a poor score. During the follow-up of eight years, 274 participants had poor heart health and developed coronary heart disease or stroke.

The researchers further analysed the link between sleep scores and heart health after adjusting for age, sex, alcohol consumption, occupation, smoking, body mass index, physical activity, cholesterol level, diabetes, and family history of heart attack, stroke, or sudden cardiac death. They uncovered that the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke decreased by 22% for every one-point rise in the sleep score at baseline. Furthermore, compared to those with a score of zero or one, participants with a score of five had a 75% lower risk of heart disease or stroke.

The researchers estimated the proportion of poor heart health events could have been prevented with healthier sleep. They found that if all participants had an optimal sleep score, they would have better heart health, with the data illuminating that 72% of coronary heart disease and stroke cases could be avoided yearly.

In the two follow-ups, 48% of the participants changed their sleep score. In 25%, it decreased, and in 23%, it improved. When the researchers examined the association between the score change and heart health, they found a one-point increment over time was associated with a 7% reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke.

Dr Nambiema said: “Our study illustrates the potential for sleeping well to preserve heart health and suggests that improving sleep is linked with lower risks of coronary heart disease and stroke. We also found that the vast majority of people have sleep difficulties. Given that cardiovascular disease is the top cause of death worldwide, greater awareness is needed on the importance of good sleep for maintaining a healthy heart.”

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