Poor Sleep Linked to Bad Heart Health

Wednesday July 1st 2015

According to research, poor sleep can increase a person’s chances of suffering a stroke or heart attack.

Professor of cardiology at the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Valery Gafarov, disclosed the findings from his recent study on Monday at a medical conference. He said the results highlight how poor sleep ought to be considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease alongside an unhealthy diet, inactivity and smoking.

Currently, sleep deprivation affects more than a third of US citizens and contributes to health problems such as memory loss, diabetes, obesity and even some types of cancer. This study presents further evidence that poor sleep could jeopardise heart health.

The research was part of a World Health Organisation program called Multinational Monitoring of Trends and the Determinants in Cardiovascular Disease. It used a representative sample of 657 men aged between 25 and 64 to examine the link between poor sleep and long-term risk of heart attack and stroke. The study started in 1994 and used the Jenkins Sleep Scale to calculate the sleep quality of the participants. Qualifiers for a sleep disorder included “poor”, “bad” and “very bad”. Gafarov monitored each subject for the following 14 years and recorded any cases of myocardial infarction throughout that period.

He told the conference that until now there hasn’t been a population based follower study to examine how sleep disorders affect the development of stroke or heart attack.

Over the study’s course, almost 63 percent of the participants who suffered a heart attack also reported a sleeping disorder. Men with sleeping disorders had 2 to 2.6 percent higher risk of heart attack and were up to 4 times more likely to experience a stroke than those who did not have difficulty sleeping between the 5th and 14th year of the observational study. Gafarov also looked at how sleep disorders are often associated closely with feelings of exhaustion, hostility, depression and anxiety.

He also discovered that of the men with sleeping disorders and an increased risk of cardiovascular disorders, many were manual labour workers, divorced or widowed. These social gradients, along with unfinished high school education, seemed to carry a higher risk when it came to heart health and poor sleep.

At the conference, Gafarov stressed that sleep isn’t a trivial issue. He said that in the study, sleep was associated with up to four times the risk of stroke and double the risk of heart attack. He feels that poor sleep ought to be considered an adaptable risk for heart disease, just like poor diet, lack of exercise and snoring. For most people, high quality sleep is between seven and eight hours a night. People struggling with sleep should contact their doctor.

Gafarov’s results were shared at EuroHeartCare 2015 in Croatia on Monday. The research has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.