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ESC: Healthy sleep habits reduce risk of heart disease and stroke

Getting a good night’s sleep could help to preserve heart health and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, finds new research.

Getting a good night’s sleep could help to preserve heart health and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, finds new research presented at the ESC Congress 2022.

This is an important finding considering nine in 10 people do not get enough sleep, and seven in 10 cardiovascular conditions could be prevented by improving sleeping habits.

Participants were followed up for a total of 10 years

Since previous studies have predominantly focused on one sleep habit, such as sleep duration or sleep apnoea, so for this study, the researchers wanted to collect information based on five sleep habits.

Each factor was given 1 point if optimal and 0 if not. A healthy sleep score ranging from 0 to 5 was calculated, with 0 or 1 considered poor and 5 considered optimal.

Those with an optimal score reported sleeping 7 to 8 hours per night, never or rarely having insomnia, no frequent excessive daytime sleepiness, no sleep apnoea, and an early chronotype (being a morning person).

The researchers checked for incident coronary heart disease and stroke every two years for a total of 10 years.

People with the best sleeping habits had a 75% lower risk of heart disease or stroke

At baseline, 10% of participants had an optimal sleep score and 8% had a poor score. During a median follow up of eight years, 274 participants developed coronary heart disease or stroke.

The researchers analysed the association between sleep scores and cardiovascular events after adjusting for age, sex, alcohol consumption, occupation, smoking, body mass index, physical activity, cholesterol level, diabetes, and family history of heart attack, stroke or sudden cardiac death.

They found that the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke decreased by 22% for every 1 point rise in the sleep score at baseline. More specifically, compared to those with a score of 0 or 1, participants with a score of 5 had a 75% lower risk of heart disease or stroke.

The researchers estimated the proportion of cardiovascular events that could be prevented with healthier sleep. They found that if all participants had an optimal sleep score, 72% of new cases of coronary heart disease and stroke might be avoided each year.

“The importance of sleep quality for heart health should be taught early in life”

Study author Dr. Aboubakari Nambiema of INSERM (the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research), Paris, France said that the low prevalence of good sleepers was expected “given our busy, 24/7 lives”, however, 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.”

She suggests that the importance of sleep quality for heart health should be taught early in life when healthy behaviours become established.

“Minimising night-time noise and stress at work can both help improve sleep,” she added.

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