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Lack of good sleep can be hard on your heart, researchers say

Photo: Pachai-Leknettip/iStockphoto

If you struggle to get quality sleep, you may be at increased risk of heart disease, results of a recent study suggest.

Researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia and Southern Denmark University looked at data from more than 300,000 middle-aged people. Using study participants’ self-reported information about sleep quality, the team developed a scoring system that ranked their sleep as “poor,” “intermediate” or “healthy” at age 40. Then, they compared it with the participants’ expectancy for “uncompromised cardiovascular health.”

Their conclusion: People who report poor or insufficient sleep, insomnia, snoring, late bedtimes, and daytime sleepiness lose about two years of normal heart health.

In addition, people who had certain sleep disturbances were found to have different lengths of compromised heart health later in life. For example, men with sleep-related breathing disorders – including sleep apnea – had seven fewer years of life free of cardiovascular disease compared with those without the conditions. Women with sleep-related breathing disorders lost more than seven years. 


“Anyone who’s had a few rough nights of sleep knows how it can lead to bad mood and not feeling one’s best,” said senior study author Emmanuel Stamatakis, a professor of physical activity, lifestyle and population health at the University of Sydney. “Our research shows that, over time, regular poor sleep can lead to significantly compromised cardiovascular health in middle and old age.

“Sleep apnea is well-known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions, but these findings are a wake-up call that poor sleep in general can pose significant risk to heart health.”

The study was published online in the journal BMC Medicine.

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