Warning for millions with irregular sleeping habits as research shows they are more at risk for two silent killers
- American researchers link irregular sleep to an increased risk of heart attacks
- Regular sleep patterns can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
Irregular sleeping habits may increase the risk of “hardened” arteries in older adults, according to a new study.
People who go to sleep at different times during the week, or who get an inconsistent number of hours of shut-eye each night, may be more likely to develop atherosclerosis, researchers say.
The condition occurs when there is a buildup of fatty deposits, known as plaque, on the walls of our arteries.
This plaque can cause arteries to narrow, reducing blood flow and the amount of oxygen and other nutrients reaching the body, or blood clots can form that block the artery, leading to a heart attack or stroke.
Researchers found that people whose sleep duration varied by more than two hours over the course of a week were more likely to have large amounts of hardened plaque in their arteries. Those who had an irregular sleep time of more than 90 minutes per week were nearly twice as likely to have high coronary artery calcium scores
Researchers tracked more than 2,000 adults with an average age of 69 from across the US and followed them for three years.
They found that participants whose sleep duration varied by more than two hours over the course of a week were 40 percent more likely to have large amounts of hardened plaque in their arteries.
These people were also 12 percent more likely to have fat buildup in their neck arteries and nearly twice as likely to have abnormal results from an atherosclerosis test.
Participants who had an irregular sleep schedule and varied their bedtime by more than 90 minutes per week were 43 percent more likely to have high calcium scores in the coronary arteries compared to those who varied only 30 minutes per week.
Lead author Kelsie Full, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee, said: ‘This study is one of the first studies to provide evidence of an association between irregular sleep duration and irregular sleep timing and atherosclerosis.
“Maintaining regular sleep schedules and reducing variability in sleep is an easily modifiable lifestyle that can not only help improve sleep, but also help reduce cardiovascular disease in aging adults.”
Poor sleep, including poor quality, abnormal quantity and fragmented segments, has already been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
In the Journal of the American Heart Association, the researchers write that doctors who encourage their patients to get regular sleep can help them reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.
Data suggests that around three million people in the UK have atherosclerosis, with increased risks for those who are older, smokers, overweight or physically inactive.