According to a new study in more than 300,000 people, poor sleep is associated with a shorter lifespan for heart health. The study suggests that people with sleep apnea are most at risk of poorer heart health in the future. Determining whether a person’s sleep is healthy depends on a range of factors, including sleep fragmentation, total sleep time, snoring and other aspects of restful rest.

A new study reports, for the first time, the effect of poor sleep on the longevity of a person’s cardiovascular health. Researchers from the University of Sydney (Australia) and the University of Southern Denmark analyzed the sleep patterns and cardiovascular medical histories of 308,683 middle-aged adults. The study found that sleep disturbances are associated with a significant reduction in years of heart health.

The study looked at clinical sleep disorders such as insomnia and breathing-related disorders, as well as a range of other sleep-related issues, such as scheduling/chronotype conflicts (type of sleep), snoring and daytime sleepiness. The two most common breathing-related sleep disorders considered in the study were central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea. The analysis found that breathing-related sleep disturbances were linked to about a 7-year shortening of the lifespan of a heart-healthy person.
The study is published in BMC Medicine.

What the study found

Breathing-related sleep disturbances are associated with a 7.32-year reduction in heart-healthy life expectancy in women and 6.73 years in men.
People who slept poorly, as defined by the study, saw their heart health reduced by an average of two years. The study explores the many types of sleep problems and their effects on heart health. Sleep is multidimensional and complex. This study suggests that it should be approached holistically and not limit the discussion to, for example, sleep duration alone The study authors hope it will encourage cardiologists and other physicians to address the topic sleep with their patients and work with them to address issues that may affect long-term heart health.

The daily impact of poor sleep

Beyond its long-term health effects, poor sleep can have many repercussions on daily life. Being overtired increases the risk of an accident due to slower reaction time and lack of attention. Additionally, it can degrade a person’s daily physical performance, impair metabolic function, and promote inflammation. Bad mood, irritability and inability to concentrate are all signs of a lack of sleep. We all suffer from lack of sleep from time to time, but it’s when it becomes chronic that we have to worry about it. This is when you should consider seeking help from a medical professional.

Poor sleep and long-term health

The particularly negative association between breathing-related sleep disturbances and heart health could be linked to common underlying problems. Breathing-related sleep disturbances are caused to a large extent by established cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity. Sleep-disordered breathing can also worsen sleep itself, leading to more fragmented and therefore less restful sleep. Poor sleep is also linked to abnormal regulation of the cardiovascular system, including the heart and blood vessels, as well as increased inflammation, dysregulation of blood pressure and disruption of the sympathetic nervous system.

What the study did

In the current study, participants’ sleep histories were either self-reported or provided by clinicians. The two types of data were analyzed separately. In research, there are always concerns about the accuracy of self-reported data. In the present case, we can, for example, ask people to evaluate snoring that they do not hear themselves. Nevertheless, self-reported data on sleep generally reflect the health risks associated with it quite well.

Respiratory disorders observed clinically and reported by general practitioners or hospitals are less likely to give rise to measurement errors. This greater accuracy of measurements is perhaps one of the reasons why breathing-related sleep disturbances appear to have such dramatic effects on life expectancy and cardiovascular health.

The problem of sleep assessment

The researchers assigned each individual a composite sleep score, classifying them as poor sleepers, intermediate sleepers, or healthy sleepers. Clinically diagnosed disorders: insomnia, sleep-related breathing disorders and other sleep disorders, were considered separately. However, it is difficult to design a perfect sleep questionnaire. For example, the questions do not distinguish between naps and nighttime sleep, or between sleep on weekdays and weekends.

Emphasize the importance of sleep

Although this is the first study looking specifically at the loss of years of healthy cardiovascular life due to sleep problems, its findings are supported by previous research. In addition, previous studies have been supported by well-controlled interventions.

Fortunately, it has also been shown that “extending sleep, or even taking a nap, can improve these parameters. For people suffering from sleep disorders, whatever they are, the study underlines the interest of a partnership with the doctor to find solutions, in particular if one receives cardiological care.

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.