July 13, 2020 • Heart Health
Interrupted Sleep and Heart Disease
Poor sleep has long been tied to a greater risk of heart attacks and strokes, but how the two are related has been somewhat of a mystery. Thanks to a new study, we now have some clarity on the mechanisms that may be involved. For this study scientists had over 1,600 adults wear sensitive movement detectors nightly for one week. The study subjects also had their sleep monitored for a single night in the sleep lab. Knowing that past studies in mice had shown that interrupted or fragmented sleep leads to higher levels of pro-inflammatory white blood cells, the scientist measured the study subjects’ white blood cell counts.
The results? Study subjects exhibiting interrupted sleep had significantly higher levels of white blood cells known to drive destructive inflammation. What’s more, they also had higher levels of calcium in their heart arteries, a known risk factor for heart attacks.
Inflammation within the lining of blood vessels has been established as the primary driver of plaque buildup in arteries, thus offering a plausible mechanism of action between poor sleep and cardiovascular disease. The lead investigator commented, “Improving sleep may offer a novel way to reduce inflammation and thus the risk of atherosclerosis.”
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