Scientists claim to have worked out how much sleep reduces your risk of chronic disease
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The study in question found a poor night’s sleep can increase the risk of heart disease and the likelihood of a stroke, when blood supply is cut off to the brain, normally because of a blood clot.
How was the conclusion reached?
The shocking conclusion of the study was reached after analysis of 7,200 participants partaking in the third Paris Prospective Study (PP3), an observational study which assessed the impact of sleep on the body.
The participants in question were people between the ages of 50 and 75 recruited over a three year period between 2008 and 2011. The average age of the participants was around 59.7 years and 62 percent of the participants were men.
Furthermore, participants were subsequently asked to fill out questionnaires on their lifestyle, personal history, family medical history, and also underwent a physical examination.
Overall ,it was found that just 10 percent of participants had high, or optimal, scores for sleep while eight percent had low scores. During the following eight years, 274 of the original 7,200 participants experienced coronary heart disease – the most common form of heart disease – and a stroke.
After taking into account age, sex, alcohol consumption, smoking, occupation, and other parameters of health including cholesterol levels, and the presence of diabetes they were able to reach their conclusion.
The team found that the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke fell by 22 percent for every one point rise in sleep score. Subsequently, those with a higher sleep score were 75 percent less likely to experience heart disease or a stroke.
How big an impact could improved sleep have on heart disease risk?
The researchers said that if all participants had an optimal sleep score, then 72 percent of heart disease cases could be avoided every year. The optimal amount of sleep was considered to be between seven and eight hours a night.
Speaking about the research, Doctor Aboubakari Nambiema said: “Our study illustrates the potential for sleeping well to preserve heart health and suggests that improving sleep is linked with lower risks of coronary heart disease and stroke.
“We also found that the vast majority of people have sleep difficulties. 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.”
While the study highlights the importance of sleep on the cardiovascular system, there are few caveats to consider, primarily the small number of participants in the study and the need to consider and cover a larger cohort of people.
Furthermore, the narrow age range of the cohort also works against results. In order to have a more balanced result, a wider range of ages and backgrounds is required for a more conclusive dataset.
As a result, there is still more research to be done if a conclusive link between sleep and heart disease is to be drawn, a link which couldn’t have been drawn through research of this type.
Doctor Nambiema’s research was an observational study, this means that it could only observe if there was a connection between sleep and heart disease. The only type of study which can do so is a causational study, one which says “X can have an impact on Y” or, in this case, whether sleep can have an impact on heart disease risk.
Nevertheless, this does not make the research worthless as it adds to the gamut of data which shows the benefits of getting an optimal amount of sleep.
Furthermore, if the results of the study are correct then around 90 percent of people could be increasing their risk of heart disease and strokes.
Fortunately, there are resources available via the NHS to help people improve their sleep. The NHS recommends five key pillars of sleep improvement:
• Get into a daily routine
• Manage your worries
• Prepare your body for sleep
• Create a restful environment
• Confront sleeplessness.
On managing one’s worries, the NHS suggests setting “aside time before bed to make a to-do list for the next day [as] this can be a good way to put your mind at rest using techniques like reframing unhelpful thoughts”.
Furthermore, they also recommend creating a restful environment by wearing earplugs, putting the phone face down, keeping clocks out of few and making sure the room is well ventilated.
As sleeplessness is a problem for many, there are a bounty of resources and support groups for people to seek advice and guidance on how to improve sleep quality and alleviate sleeplessness.
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