A good night’s sleep has to be one of the easiest ways to stay healthy, but a surprising number of people seem to find it difficult to do; and their hearts may be paying the price.
Heart failure affects more than 26 million people worldwide. Unhealthy sleep habits contribute to heart failure. On the other hand, regularly getting a good night’s sleep lowers your risk of heart problems.
“We think of sleep as a complex pattern of individual behaviors, so improving sleep involves changing at least some of those behaviors,” Lu Qi, one of the authors of a new study looking into sleep’s effect on the heart, told TheDoctor.
Here’s what a healthy sleep pattern looks like: It includes sleeping seven to eight hours per night, not snoring and never or rarely experiencing insomnia or daytime sleepiness. Being an early bird rather than a night owl boosts sleep's health benefits. So does keeping to a regular bedtime and avoiding food, caffeinated drinks and screen time late at night.
Researchers from Tulane and Harvard universities examined how overall sleep patterns affected heart failure risk in over 400,000 participants using data in the UK Biobank. They found having the healthiest sleep patterns reduced the risk of heart failure among adults by almost a half.
People with the healthiest overall sleep patterns had a 42 percent lower risk of heart failure compared to those who had unhealthy sleep patterns.
Participants were between 37 and 73 years old when they were recruited for the UK Biobank between 2006 and 2010. Incidents of heart failure were collected up until April 1, 2019. More than 5,200 cases of heart failure were recorded during a median 10-year follow-up period.
Information about sleep behaviors was collected via a touch screen questionnaire. Each behavior was rated as a one if it met the criteria for healthy sleep and zero if it did not. A healthy sleep score was obtained by adding up the numbers, with a higher number indicating a healthy sleep pattern.
People who had the healthiest overall sleep patterns had a 42 percent lower risk of heart failure compared to those who had unhealthy sleep patterns. And the risk of heart failure was eight percent lower in early risers compared to night owls; 12 percent lower in participants who slept seven to eight hours per night compared to those who slept less than seven hours or more than eight; 17 percent lower in those who did not have frequent insomnia; and 34 percent lower in those who reported no daytime sleepiness.
The fact that sleep behaviors were self-reported and information about sleep behaviors during the follow-up period was unavailable were two limitations of the study according to the authors. Qi, the HCA Regents Distinguished Chair and professor of epidemiology and director of the Tulane University Obesity Research Center, and his team are doing additional analyses to look at the effect of sleep behaviors on the risk of other diseases and in other populations.
The study is published in Circulation.