(Natural News) If you pulled an all-nighter for work, you’ll most likely be very tired and cranky the next day. But being sleep-deprived doesn’t just affect your ability to concentrate; data from a study suggest that poor sleep quality is linked to a higher risk of developing heart disease.
This study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
In it, researchers warned that people who sleep less than six hours a night may have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, unlike those who sleep at least seven to eight hours. Their findings showed that poor quality sleep increases the risk of atherosclerosis, a condition that makes the arteries stiff due to plaque buildup.
The arteries carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Arteries are lined with the endothelium, a thin layer of cells that keeps them smooth and allows blood to flow easily. Atherosclerosis occurs when the endothelium is damaged, which allows bad cholesterol to build up in the artery wall.
The body sends a type of white blood cells to clean up this cholesterol. However, these cells may get stuck at the affected site. In time, plaque made up of calcium, cholesterol, macrophages, and other substances from the blood can build up.
The plaque could clog up the artery and disrupt the flow of blood around the body. This increases the risk of blood clots, which can cause life-threatening conditions.
The link between atherosclerosis and poor sleep
According to Dr. Jose M. Ordovas, a senior study author from the Spanish National Center for Cardiovascular Research, heart disease is a major global problem.
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While experts continue to treat it using various approaches, the study highlighted the importance of getting good quality sleep for heart health. Unfortunately, most people compromise sleep quality by staying up late or not having proper sleeping habits.
Ordovas noted that this is the first study of its kind to reveal that objectively measured sleep is independently associated with atherosclerosis throughout the body, not just in the heart.
Earlier research revealed that poor sleep increases the risk of heart disease by increasing cardiovascular disease risk factors like glucose levels, blood pressure, inflammation, and obesity.
For the study, Ordovas and his fellow researchers worked with 3,974 bank employees in Spain from the PESA CNIC- Santander Study, led by Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) editor-in-chief Dr. Valentin Fuster.
They used imaging techniques to detect the prevalence and rate of progression of subclinical vascular lesions among individuals who had an average age of 46 years. None of the volunteers were diagnosed with heart disease and two-thirds of the group were male.
Each volunteer wore an actigraph, a small device used to continuously measure activity or movement. The actigraph measured the participants’ sleep for seven days.
The volunteers were divided into four groups: Those who had less than six hours of sleep, those who had six to seven hours of sleep, those who had seven to eight hours of sleep, and those who slept longer than eight hours. All the participants underwent 3D heart ultrasound and cardiac CT scans to check for cardiovascular disease.
Their findings revealed that when traditional risk factors for heart disease were considered, volunteers who had less than six hours of sleep were 27 percent more likely to have atherosclerosis throughout the body, unlike those who slept for seven to eight hours. (Related: Heart failure patients require restorative rest; treating sleep disorders provides cardiovascular benefits.)
Meanwhile, the participants who had poor sleep quality were 34 percent more likely to have atherosclerosis, unlike those who slept well. For the study, quality of sleep was defined by how often a person woke during the night, and the frequency of their movements during sleep, which reflect the sleep phases.
Fuster noted that more people need to understand that shorter sleep duration that is of good quality can overcome the detrimental effects of the shorter length.
The researchers also revealed that sleeping more than eight hours every night could lead to atherosclerosis. Even though the number of volunteers who slept more than eight hours was small, the study showed that women who slept more than eight hours a night had a greater risk of atherosclerosis.
The researchers also found that participants with poor quality sleep consumed more alcohol and caffeine. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is not a good inducer of sleep. Because of its rebound effect, drinking alcohol can make you wake up after a short period of sleep. Even if you fall asleep, alcohol will negatively affect your sleep quality.
To improve your overall well-being and lower your risk of developing heart conditions, sleep for at least seven to eight hours every night.