October 21, 2022 — Results of a new study, including how long a person sleeps in a heart health score, predict heart disease risk among older adults.
The study is supported by the American Heart Association the last decision To make sleep duration “an essential component of optimal heart and brain health.”
says lead author Noor Makarem, Ph.D., at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.
The study is the first to show that measures of sleep are important in predicting heart health, she says.
Makarem and her colleagues studied 1,920 people who participated in a large sleep study. The median age was 69, and just over half were women. The researchers used the data to test heart health scores that included sleep as a measure against the American Heart Association’s guidelines known as Life’s Simple 7, which does not include sleep as a data point. (The American Heart Association recently added sleep to the guidelines and unveiled 8 New Living Essentials.)
Over 4 years of follow-up, both the heart health score that included LS7 as well as sleep duration alone and the score that included LS7 and different aspects of sleep health, such as sleep duration, sleep regularity, daytime sleep and sleep disturbances, were able to predict future heart disease events. Such as a heart attack, bypass surgery, or chest pain.
Study participants who scored highest on LS7 and different versions of the sleep health scores had up to 80% lower odds of developing heart disease, according to the study, which posted In the Journal of the American Heart Association.
It should be noted that participants who have a short sleep period have higher chances of decreased sleep efficiency. Less than 85% of the time fell asleep in bed after turning off the lights, irregular sleep patterns, excessive daytime sleepiness, and obstructive sleep apnea. They also had a higher prevalence of being overweight/obese, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Makarem says good sleep hygiene is key to getting enough restful sleep, as well as to a healthy heart. Good sleep hygiene includes establishing a sleep schedule, bedtime routine, and a sleep environment for consistent sleep patterns.
Her tips include:
Stick to a consistent sleep schedule: Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends, to avoid disrupting your round-the-clock sleep-wake rhythm.
- Use the hour before bedtime to relax and unwind – for example, by reading or taking a hot shower.
- Improve your sleeping environment by making your bedroom comfortable, quiet, cool and dark. Use heavy curtains or an eye mask to prevent light from interrupting your sleep, and avoid bright light sources such as computers, televisions, and phones.
- Mask any noise with earplugs or a white noise machine.
- Avoid stimulants such as nicotine and caffeine, especially as bedtime approaches.
“Sleep is not your enemy; it is your friend,” says Michael A. Grandiner, MD, an American Heart Association volunteer expert, of the University of Arizona School of Medicine. “People often sacrifice sleep in order to work more, but the data shows that people who sleep more actually get more done at the end of the day because they are more efficient, get sick less and are less injured.”
He says, if you think you may have a sleep disorder, talk to your doctor, get it diagnosed, and treat it. “There is no sleep advice in the world that will fix an untreated sleep disorder.”
“And if you’re in bed and you’re not asleep, get up,” he says. “Lie there awake actually creates the bed as an awake place and programs you to be awake in bed. If you’re in bed and can’t sleep, don’t make things worse by staying there.”