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More Sleep, Healthy Heart

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Tuesday, December 23, 2008 9:33 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Sleep, Heart Attack, Protecting Your Family, Heart Disease, Healthy Living

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IMAGE SOURCE:© Wikimedia Commons / sleeping moon / author: Dvortygirl

Heading to bed just an hour earlier each night, may lower the risk of developing calcium deposits in the arteries, a precursor to heart disease, a new study shows.

Researchers have already known that lack of sleep is bad for your health. According to sleep experts, insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions including cardiovascular disease, cigarette smoking, depression, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and stroke.

For every extra hour of sleep there was a 33 percent reduction in participants’ likelihood of developing coronary artery calcification over five years.

Overall, that may reduce the risk of heart attack and other heart “events,” but more studies are needed to make the findings conclusive, note researchers in the December 24 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Coronary Artery Calcification

The study aims to track new cases of coronary artery calcification among 500 middle-aged U.S. adults over the duration of five years.

Coronary artery disease develops when fatty deposits accumulate in arteries, limiting blood flow to the heart and depriving it of oxygen.

Coronary artery disease affects 1,500,000 Americans each year; of which 500,000 will die.

Sleep Habits Matter

Using computed tomography (CT), participants had a scan of their coronary arteries at the start and end of the study.

They also wore sophisticated wrist devices for six days at the start of the study to measure activity and their sleep habits. Information from the device was fed into a computer program that was able to detect the patient’s sleep patterns.

The group averaged about six hours of sleep per night. Few people slept more than eight hours a night, reports Diane Lauderdale of the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Longer Sleep, Healthier Hearts

At the end of the five-year study, CT scan showed 12 percent of participants had developed coronary artery calcification.

People who slept longer – confirmed by the wrist monitors – were less likely to develop the disease.

“Just one more hour of sleep reduced the estimated odd of calcification by 33 percent,” wrote King’s research team.

After factoring in participants’ sex, race, age, smoking, education level and sleep apnea risk, researchers found sleep duration appeared to play a significant role in the development of coronary artery calcification.

“People tend to think that sleep doesn’t matter, but it clearly does. Sleep deprivation is a public health problem and studies such as this one show how increasing sleep duration can have a significantly positive effect,” said Kathy Parker, a sleep researcher from the University of Rochester's School of Nursing in New York, who was not involved in the study.

Lauderdale said that while her findings need to be confirmed by longer studies, many studies highlight the need for at least six hours of sleep a night.

Physical activity is good for more than just your waistline. A recent study suggests it can help to reduce a woman’s overall risk of cancer, but only if she gets a good night’s sleep.

More than one-quarter of the U.S. population reports occasionally not getting sufficient amounts of sleep, while nearly 10% experience chronic insomnia.

And another recent study found a good night’s sleep helps the body fight invading bacteria – at least Stanford researchers found that to be the case in fruit flies. #


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