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Posted By: Ben Taylor, PA-C, PhD, DFAAPA
January 10, 2020
We all know that sleep is crucial for heart health. Research has shown that regardless of a person's age, weight, smoking habits, and exercise levels, lack of sleep sets the framework for a higher risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and coronary heart disease (CHD). Thus, to reduce the risk of these conditions, it is important to achieve ample amounts of quality sleep.
We understand how important sleep is to cardiovascular health in part because of research revealing that patients with sleep apnea often have impaired heart health. This correlation is attributed to prolonged apneic periods, during which certain chemicals that produce and prolong hypotension and bradycardia are activated; over time they can lead to hypertensive episodes during the day, increasing the risk of cardiovascular problems.
To date, many studies have demonstrated the relationship between sleep apnea and CVD. One 8-year study conducted in men with and without sleep apnea found that participants with significant sleep apnea had a 58% higher risk of developing congestive heart failure than those without sleep apnea.
In another study, researchers analyzed data from 385,292 participants aged 37 to 73 years without established CVD. All participants were genotyped and responded to online questionnaires about their current sleep and health behaviors. Specifically, five sleep factors were scored: insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, presence of snoring, duration of sleep, and chronotype (profiled as early or late). Results of this study demonstrated that CHD risk increased in a stepwise fashion as genetic cardiovascular risk increased and self-reported sleep scores decreased. Participants with high genetic risk and low sleep scores were more than 2.5 times at risk for CHD than participants with low genetic risk and healthy sleep scores.
It is important to note that this was an observational study, and that it does not yet signify a causative link between sleep score and cardiovascular risk. If there is a link between the two, the researchers suggest that "more than 10% of CVD, CHD, and stroke events would not have occurred if all participants had been in the low-risk group for all five sleep factors." The authors concluded that, regardless of genetic risk, practicing healthy sleep habits and treating sleep disorders may help to prevent CVD.
- He Q, Sun H, Wu X, et al. Sleep duration and risk of stroke: a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Sleep Med. 2017;32:66-74.
- Wang D, Li W, Cui X, et al. Sleep duration and risk of coronary heart disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Int J Cardiol. 2016;219:231-219.
- Yin J, Jin X, Shan Z, et al. Relationship of sleep duration with all-cause mortality and cardiovascular events: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. J Am Heart Assoc. 2017;6:e005947.