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.
CQD reached out to Cleveland Clinic cardiologists Sapna Legha, MD, Monica Khot, MD, and Tamanna Singh, MD, to inquire about how professionals could improve their sleep habits to avoid heart issues.
The physicians highlighted these steps for better sleep:
- Maintain a sleep routine by going to bed at the same time every night and waking up around the same time every morning.
- Aim for 7-8 hours of restful sleep most nights.
- Reduce caffeine consumption overall and no caffeine in the evenings.
- Eat the evening meal at least 4 hours prior to bedtime. Or have a lighter meal in the evening if you cannot achieve this.
- Exercise regularly.
- Moderate alcohol consumption.
- Try relaxing techniques like listening to soft music, meditating or reading before sleeping. Find what works for you.
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.