Changing time and amount of sleep may raise the risk of heart disease

Health
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Researchers found that irregular sleep patterns increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in people ages 45 to 84.

Experts recommend that most adults get seven to nine hours of quality sleep a night because it helps support healthy brain function. Sleep also impacts metabolism like controlling appetite and blood sugar with research linking insufficient sleep to health conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

A research team led by Dr. Tianyi Huang at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital analyzed data from nearly 2,000 men and women, ages 45 to 84, that did not have cardiovascular disease at the start of the study.

In addition to tracking sleep-wake patterns, the researchers followed the study participants for about five years to see if they developed cardiovascular disease.

Over this time, 111 participants had cardiovascular events, including heart attack, stroke, or death from a cardiovascular cause.

Participants with the most irregular sleep schedules were nearly twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease as those with more regular sleep patterns, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“We hope that our study will help raise awareness about the potential importance of a regular sleep pattern in improving heart health. It is a new frontier in sleep medicine,” Huang says.

The findings suggest maintaining regular sleep patterns could help prevent heart disease just as physical activity, a healthy diet, and other lifestyle measures do.

Irregular sleep patterns may disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycles, called circadian rhythms. Heart rate, blood pressure, and other cardiovascular functions follow circadian patterns.

Studies have shown that people who work the night shift have disrupted circadian rhythms as well as a moderate increase in heart disease and stroke.

Future studies hope to understand the underlying links between irregular sleep and cardiovascular disease risk.

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