As part of the healthcare industry we know that sleep is important. Without enough, our health can suffer. But what does this mean exactly? A recent study reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology took a closer look at how sleep affects heart health. More specifically, the study looked at interactions among sleep, conventional risk factors (for heart disease), psychosocial factors, dietary habits and inflammation.
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Nearly 4,000 people between the ages of 40 and 50 with no symptoms of heart disease (or diagnosed sleep apnea) were studied over the course of seven days. Data was recorded noninvasively with the use of waist actigraphy (wearable sensor technology; e.g., Fitbit devices).
The big takeaway? Researchers found that shorter durations of sleep and fragmented sleep are both associated with early signs of atherosclerosis. Shorter duration was considered less than 6 hours of sleep at night, while fragmented sleep was characterized by repetitive short interruptions of sleep associated with body movements or sleep-disordered breathing.
Led by researchers from Spain, the study was conducted because to date, there has been little objective information about sleep and early onset atherosclerosis.
The doctors noted the irony that more sleep might lead to greater productivity overall, even if the sleep reduces one’s hours of active time. And they agreed that the primary lifestyle barriers to good sleep today include professional stress and overscheduling.
“I think the most important takeaway is that there is likely some truth to the statement ‘sleep is restorative,’” says Dr. Singh. “We need to maximize our efficiency during the day so we can have the time to dedicate to sleep and rest and recovery.”
While the study provides interesting results in terms of sleep duration and sleep quality, the cardiologists agreed that more studies to validate and look deeper into these results are needed.