With our busy, stressful lives, constant noise and frequent distractions, most of us struggle to get the seven or eight hours’ sleep per night widely recommended by health professionals.
Now, a study of more than 7,000 people’s sleep habits carried out by researchers at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), Paris, has found that seven out of ten cardiovascular conditions such as heart attacks could be prevented if we all regularly got a good night’s sleep.
The team analysed the sleeping habits of 7,200 men and women aged between 50 and 75, who showed no previous signs of cardiovascular disease, over ten years starting in 2008.
All of the participants underwent a physical health check at the beginning of the study and were then asked to fill in a questionnaire designed to score their sleep health based on five criteria, each scored from 0 – indicating poor sleep – to five – indicating optimal sleep. These were: hours slept per night, chronotype, frequency of insomnia, occurrence of sleep apnoea and frequency of daytime sleepiness.
Ten per cent were deemed to have optimal sleep habits and eight per cent poor.
The team then checked the occurrence of coronary heart disease and stroke every two years over a ten-year period, adjusting the data for a number of factors including age, sex, alcohol consumption, smoking habits, body mass index, cholesterol level and family history of heart conditions.
They found that those scoring a 5 on the scale had a 75 per cent lower risk of heart disease or stroke compared to those with a score of 0 or 1, with each point altering the risk by around 20 per cent.
“The low prevalence of good sleepers was expected given our busy, 24/7 lives,” said study author Dr. Aboubakari Nambiema of INSERM.
“Our study illustrates the potential for sleeping well to preserve heart health and suggests that improving sleep is linked with lower risks of coronary heart disease and stroke.
“Given that cardiovascular disease is the top cause of death worldwide, greater awareness is needed on the importance of good sleep for maintaining a healthy heart.”
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