Poor Sleep Linked To Buildup Of Dangerous Plaques Throughout Body
Risk of strokes, digestive problems increase
Here’s another reason why getting a good night’s sleep should be on your must-do list: Sleeping fewer than six hours a night or waking frequently raises your risk of developing damaging plaque in arteries throughout your body, not just your heart.
Previous research has shown poor sleep to be strongly associated with coronary heart disease, but “This is the first study to show that objectively measured sleep is independently associated with atherosclerosis throughout the body,” José Ordovás, director of nutrition and genomics at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, said in a statement. Ordovás was senior author of a study on these findings, published Monday in the journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The increase of plaque, called atherosclerosis, in your extremities puts you at increased risk for strokes, digestive problems and poor circulation that leads to numbness and pain in your extremities, as well as heart disease.
The study looked at nearly 4,000 Spanish men and women, with an average age of 46, who had no history of heart disease. Each person wore an actigraph, a small device that measured the length and quality of sleep, over seven nights. Quality of sleep was defined by how often they woke up and how often they moved during the sleep phases.
The subjects were divided into four groups based on their sleep duration: fewer than six hours, six to seven hours, seven to eight hours and more than eight hours. And each person underwent both a cardiac CT scan and a 3D ultrasound of their heart at the beginning and end of the study. Various arteries in the body were also observed via 3D ultrasound.
This use of objective means to quantify sleep was one of the strengths of the research, Dr. Daniel Gottlieb and Dr. Deepak Bhatt of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital wrote in an editorial published alongside the study.
Another strength was the size of the study and the exclusion of anyone with existing heart disease or obstructive sleep apnea. Prior research had typically included patients with existing heart and other chronic diseases, and used patient questionnaires to capture sleep length and quality, which are subject to recall error.
“What people report and what they do are often different,” said Dr. Valentin Fuster, editor-in-chief of the journal of the American College of Cardiology, who led the new research.