Atherosclerosis risk linked to poor sleep quality

THE IMPORTANCE of a good night’s sleep on health is not a new topic, but researchers in Europe and the USA have recently added to this growing evidence base following the discovery of a link between sleep duration and quality and a person’s risk of developing atherosclerosis.

As well as assessing the vascular lesions of 3,974 participants of the Progressions of Early Subclinical Atherosclerosis (PESA) study, the team from the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III, Madrid, Spain, and Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, USA, gathered data from sleep actigraphs for 7 days. The use of actigraphs ensured greater reliability than that seen in previous studies, which relied on self-reported outcomes from the participants. The researchers split the participants into groups dependent on their duration of sleep per night: <6 hours, 6–7 hours, 7–8 hours, and >8 hours. Two-thirds of the participants were male. All participants had three-dimensional heart ultrasounds and cardiac CT scans to check for heart disease, but none had been diagnosed with heart disease at baseline.

After correcting for other heart disease risk factors, the study revealed that the <6 hours-per-night group had a 27% increased risk of atherosclerosis compared with the participants in the group that slept for 7–8 hours per night. Additionally, it was found that those who were considered to have poor sleep quality, including waking up often during the night, had a 34% increased risk of atherosclerosis. Patients that achieved >8 hours per night were also shown to have an increased risk of atherosclerosis, a risk that affected women in particular.

Dr Jos, Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory, Tufts University, and senior author of the study, commented: “This study emphasises we have to include sleep as one of the weapons we use to fight heart disease; a factor we are compromising every day.”