Lack of sleep could be clogging your arteries: Study

People who sleep less than six hours a night are 27 per cent more likely to have atherosclerosis, a new study has found. Source: Getty

Most Baby Boomers are aware that sleep is important for health, but a new study has found that sleeping less than six hours a night could put people at risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found a lack of sleep can increase the risk of developing clogged arteries. Researchers found that a lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep increases the risk of atherosclerosis – plaque build-up in the arteries.

It was found that people who sleep less than six hours a night were 27 per cent more likely to have atherosclerosis. While physical activity, diet and pharmaceuticals have all been proven ways of preventing and treating cardiovascular disease for some time, researchers used the new study to emphasise the importance of sleep in beating the disease that claims more than 17.9 million lives each year.

The study is one of the first in the world to find that sleep impacts atherosclerosis, as well as the heart, while previous studies have shown that a lack of sleep can raise the risk of heart disease risk factors including glucose levels, blood pressure, inflammation and obesity.

The new research analysed 2,974 participants from Spain as part of the PESA CNIC Santander Study and used imaging techniques to detect the prevalence and rate of progression of subclinical vascular lesions. The participants were without known heart disease and each person wore a small device called an actigraph to measure their sleep.

Participants were divided into groups based on how long they slept for and each underwent a 3D heart ultrasound and cardiac CT scan to look for heart disease. In addition to a lack of sleep being associated with a 27 per cent increased risk of atherosclerosis, those who had a poor quality of sleep were 34 percent more likely to have atherosclerosis compared with those who had a good quality of sleep.

The study defined quality of sleep as how often a person woke during the night and the frequency of movements during sleep.

“It is important to realise that shorter sleep duration that is of good quality can overcome the detrimental effects of the shorter length,” study leader Valentin Fuster explained.

And while a lack of sleep can increase the risk of clogged arteries, sleeping more than eight hours a night may also be associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis. The study also found that alcohol and caffeine consumption was linked with short and disrupted sleep.

“Many people think alcohol is a good inducer of sleep, but there’s a rebound effect,” senior study author José M. Ordovas said. “If you drink alcohol, you may wake up after a short period of sleep and have a hard time getting back to sleep. And if you do get back to sleep, it’s often a poor-quality sleep.”

This study differs from others because it is large and it focuses on healthy people. Others have analysed people with health problems or relied on questionnaires for data. It’s always important to talk to a GP if experiencing problems with sleeping.

What are your thoughts on this study? How long do you sleep each night?

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and information purposes only. It does not take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. It is not personalised health advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any decisions about your health or changes to medication, diet and exercise routines you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from a medical professional.

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