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Disrupted sleep can increase consumers' risk of cardiovascular disease

Researchers say inflammation is the link between the two conditions

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Photo (c) jhorrocks - Getty Images
While previous studies have highlighted how important it is for consumers to get adequate sleep, a new study explored how a lack of sleep can affect consumers’ heart health. 

According to researchers, consumers who aren’t sleeping well at night could be at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Their study found that inflammation is much more likely when sleep isn’t continuous and consumers are awake for portions of the night. That, in turn, increases the risk for heart disease. 

“These findings may help inform public health guidelines that seek to increase the continuity of sleep as a way to improve health and decrease the burden of heart disease on society,” said researcher Matthew Walker. 

Nighttime risks

To understand how consumers’ sleeping patterns can affect their heart health, the researchers had over 1,600 participants involved in the study. 

For one week of the study, the participants’ sleep was monitored using a wearable wrist monitor. For one night of the study, sleep was monitored using polysomnography, which is a more formal type of sleep study that assesses overall sleep quality. The researchers also collected blood samples, as white blood cell count can often indicate inflammation. 

Ultimately, the researchers learned that the participants were more likely to experience inflammation throughout their bodies when their sleep was disrupted. 

Poor sleep was also associated with a higher count of neutrophils, which are a type of white blood cell that increases inflammation. This was cause for concern because this was associated with an increased risk of another condition known as atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart disease. Atherosclerosis occurs when there is a build up in the arteries, and those who have it often don’t feel symptoms. 

The researchers hope that these findings can be beneficial for both consumers and medical professionals in the future, as analyzing sleep habits can be a key component of maintaining consumers’ heart health. 

“Improving sleep may be a novel way to reduce inflammation and thus reduce the risk of atherosclerosis,” said Walker.  

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