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Having Restful Sleep on a Regular Basis Can Reduce Your Chances of Cardiovascular Disease



Health and sleep are closely related; insufficient sleep has been associated with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, and anxiety.

Even while research highlights the value of getting good sleep, a lot of studies have examined individuals’ sleep habits throughout time. However, a person’s sleep patterns can vary over their life, thus a single measurement might not necessarily provide a complete picture of their health over the course of a lifetime.

Chinese researchers looked studied people’s sleep habits at two distinct times, spaced a few years apart, to better understand how changes in sleep patterns affect health.

They discovered, in line with other studies, that improved sleep was associated with improved health, namely a decreased risk of stroke and coronary heart disease. Those who had good sleep at the beginning and end of the trial benefited the most from these changes.

But even those who experienced excellent sleep once had a lower chance of developing cardiovascular illness than those who continued to have poor sleep quality.

The Impact of Poor Sleep On Heart Health

More than 15,000 retired Chinese workers participated in the study, answering questionnaires and undergoing physical exams spaced roughly five years apart. Some participants provided genetic information to researchers, which was used to assess their cardiovascular risk.

Participants who at the beginning of the study had cancer or cardiovascular illness were not allowed to continue in the study.

The questionnaires were used by researchers to assess participants’ sleep quality. Four criteria were used to define “favorable” sleep: going to bed between 10 p.m. and midnight, getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, having good or fair-quality sleep, and taking naps of no more than 60 minutes during the day.

Researchers discovered that those who had “favorable” sleep patterns at both points in time had a lower risk of experiencing an incident related to cardiovascular disease (stroke or coronary heart disease) than those who had bad sleep patterns at either point in time.

Compared to those who continued to have poor sleep, even those who slept well at first but worsened at the follow-up visit had a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The lowest cardiovascular risk was, however, seen in those who reported great sleep quality (chronic agreeable sleep) at both time points. This included a 34% lower risk of stroke and a 16% lower risk of coronary heart disease.

Researchers discovered that those with beneficial sleep habits at both time points and a low hereditary risk for cardiovascular disease had the lowest cardiovascular risk when accounting for the influence of genetics.

Compared to individuals with a high hereditary risk and persistently poor sleep, the lowest-risk group had a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and a 52% lower risk of stroke.

Nonetheless, the results demonstrated that even those with an intermediate or high hereditary risk of cardiovascular disease can benefit from having high-quality sleep, as evidenced by the 64% decreased risk seen in the group with high-quality sleep.

Thus, according to Cheng-Han Chen, MD, an interventional cardiologist and the medical director of the Structural Heart Program at Memorial Care Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California, “good sleep quality decreased people’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease even with the presence of genetic factors associated with cardiovascular disease.”

Sleep Habits Are Frequently Regular

UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas’s Safia S. Khan, MD, an associate professor in the departments of neurology and family and community medicine, and a specialist in sleep disorders, said that the findings of the new study are consistent with past studies that evaluated people’s quality of sleep using survey data.

Still, she told Healthline, the new study is among the first to examine how sleep patterns vary over time and the risks associated with cardiovascular disease.

In a second study, researchers tracked middle-aged European volunteers for nine years, measuring sleep quality at two different points in time. They discovered that those with better sleep patterns and those who gradually made improvements to their sleeping habits had a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

These outcomes align with the conclusions of the most recent study.

The previous study also demonstrated that a large number of individuals had regular sleep schedules, since just 19% of participants experienced sleep pattern changes during the study.

According to Khan, “the sleep patterns of middle-aged individuals and retirees won’t change significantly from year to year.” Thus, it is reasonable to presume that the participants in the recent study had a similar sleep schedule prior to the survey’s administration.

Accordingly, she said, the study’s findings provide solid evidence of the relationship between cardiovascular outcomes and sleep habits.

The study’s focus on retired older folks, who might have more innate sleep patterns than middle-aged people who frequently modify their sleep cycles to fit work commitments, is another distinctive feature, according to the authors.

A Vital Component Of Heart Health Is Sleep

Despite its alignment with previous research, the study is not without flaws.

For instance, the results might not apply to younger persons or those from various racial or ethnic origins because the participants were all senior Chinese people.

So “we need to have more studies from other regions of the world,” said Khan, “to see if these results can be replicated in those other areas.”

Furthermore, Chen told Healthline that because this was an observational study, “it doesn’t necessarily show that poor sleep quality causes the cardiovascular condition,” simply that the two are related.

“It could be that there are other factors, such as depression or stress, that cause both poor sleep quality and cardiovascular disease,” he said.

Not all of these additional criteria were considered by the researchers.

For instance, Chen stated, “They didn’t look at other aspects of sleep quality that we consider very important,” particularly the risk factors for cardiovascular disease associated with sleep disorders like sleep apnea.

“We don’t know how many people had sleep apnea, insomnia, restless legs, or other sleep disturbances,” she said. “Or if their spouses had significant sleep apnea or snoring that could be disturbing [people’s] sleep.”

It is well established that heart health is significantly impacted by the quality of one’s sleep, as Khan noted, even though further research should consider these additional elements.

Along with controlling weight, cholesterol, eating well, and being active, the American Heart Association lists getting enough sleep as one of its eight critical measuresTrusted Source for improving and maintaining cardiovascular health.

“Whenever I talk to my patients about cardiovascular health and improving their cardiovascular risk factors, I always mention sleep quality and the idea of getting good sleep, as well as asking if they’ve been checked for sleep apnea,” said Chen.


Researchers showed that people who sustained high-quality sleep over a five-year period had the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease, specifically coronary heart disease and stroke, in a study including over 15,000 retired workers.

But even those who slept well just once throughout the research were less likely to develop cardiovascular illness than those who slept poorly the entire time.

The study used questionnaires, which may not be a reliable way to measure participants’ sleep quality. Furthermore, additional variables that may influence the risk of cardiovascular disease, such as depression and sleep disorders like sleep apnea, were not evaluated by the researchers.


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