Poor sleep quality and irregular sleep patterns could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
The study is one of the first to provide evidence of a connection between irregular sleep duration and timing and atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is the build-up of plaque in arteries, which can lead to coronary heart disease, angina, heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral artery disease.
The authors defined sleep regularity as variations in sleep duration and timing. The study analyzed the sleep of over 2,000 participants, with an average age of 69, who took part in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.
Participants kept a sleep diary and wore a wristwatch that tracked their sleep and wake history, and underwent an at-home sleep study.
The study found those with irregular sleep duration were about 1.4 times more likely to have high coronary artery calcium scores, which increases the risk of some cardiovascular conditions, and were more likely to have carotid plaque and abnormal results from a test assessing blood vessel stiffness.
The findings could be due to a direct link between sleep and the heart, lifestyle factors, or both.
“This study is one of the first investigations to provide evidence of a connection between irregular sleep duration and irregular sleep timing and atherosclerosis,” said lead study author Kelsie Full, an assistant professor of medicine in the epidemiology division at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
Life’s Essential 8, the American Heart Association’s checklist for lifelong good health, includes eating healthy, being physically active, quitting tobacco, managing weight, controlling cholesterol and managing blood sugar and blood pressure.
The association recommends adults get seven to nine hours of sleep each night, which is more likely if you have sound sleep hygiene.
This would involve hitting the sack and waking up at the same time daily, whilst also avoiding caffeine after late morning, avoiding screen usage before bed, sleeping in dark, quiet rooms and restricting your bedroom for sleep and intimacy.