A good night’s sleep could prevent most heart attacks and strokes

Researchers tracked more than 7,000 healthy over-50s for a decade – and found just one in 10 regularly got a good night’s sleep.

Compared to the worst sleepers, those who were well rested saw their risk of heart disease or stroke fall by 75 percent. Scientists estimate if all adults regularly slept well, then the number of heart attacks and strokes would fall by 72 percent.

Researchers said modern “24/7” lives, with many of us glued to smartphones, and struggling to wind down during the evenings, meant a good night’s sleep had become an increasing rarity.

Around 100,000 people in the UK are killed by heart disease and strokes every year.

The findings suggest tens of thousands of lives could be saved simply by improving the nation’s sleeping habits.

Reducing stress key to improving sleep

Speaking at the European Society of Cardiology’s annual congress in Barcelona, Dr Aboubakari Nambiema, the lead scientist from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, said reducing stress was key to improving the quality of slumber.

“The vast majority of people have sleep difficulties,” he said. “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.”

French researchers scored volunteers out of five for five key sleeping habits, with zero being the lowest mark.

Optimal scores were achieved by seven to eight hours of sleep per night, never or rarely having insomnia, no daytime sleepiness or sleep apnoea, and being a morning person.

After eight years of follow-up, 274 of the 7,203 participants had a heart attack or stroke.

The study found risk fell by 22 per cent for every single point rise in the sleep score.

Around seven per cent of volunteers had the lowest mark of either zero or one – while the majority scored either a three or four.

Researchers tracked more than 7,000 healthy over-50s for a decade – and found just one in 10 regularly got a good night’s sleep.

Compared to the worst sleepers, those who were well rested saw their risk of heart disease or stroke fall by 75 percent. Scientists estimate if all adults regularly slept well, then the number of heart attacks and strokes would fall by 72 percent.

Researchers said modern “24/7” lives, with many of us glued to smartphones, and struggling to wind down during the evenings, meant a good night’s sleep had become an increasing rarity.

Around 100,000 people in the UK are killed by heart disease and strokes every year.

The findings suggest tens of thousands of lives could be saved simply by improving the nation’s sleeping habits.

Reducing stress key to improving sleep

Speaking at the European Society of Cardiology’s annual congress in Barcelona, Dr Aboubakari Nambiema, the lead scientist from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, said reducing stress was key to improving the quality of slumber.

“The vast majority of people have sleep difficulties,” he said. “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.”

French researchers scored volunteers out of five for five key sleeping habits, with zero being the lowest mark.

Optimal scores were achieved by seven to eight hours sleep per night, never or rarely having insomnia, no daytime sleepiness or sleep apnoea, and being a morning person.

After eight years of follow-up, 274 of the 7,203 participants had a heart attack or stroke.

The study found risk fell by 22 per cent for every single point rise in the sleep score.

Around seven per cent of volunteers had the lowest mark of either zero or one – while the majority scored either a three or four.

Researchers said the stark differences showed the need for the public to be educated on the importance of a good night’s sleep.

Dr Nambiema said: “The low prevalence of good sleepers was expected given our busy, 24/7 lives. The importance of sleep quality and quantity 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.”

Lack of sleep increases host of risks to the heart
Prof Russell Foster, a sleep expert, said lack of sleep leaves the body abnormally stressed – increasing a host of risks to the heart.

Prof Foster, from the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at Oxford University, said: “The mechanism, in my view, is abnormal activation of the stress response as a result of the need to override the lack of sleep.

“What we know is you have increased blood pressure, altered immune responses, inflammation, you have all sorts of physiology that long term can lead to a greater risk of stroke and heart attacks.”

The sleep expert and author of Life Time said feeling tired during the day, needing coffee to stay awake and struggling to get out of bed were all signs of not being well rested, as he urged the nation to adopt consistent habits, and prioritise slumber.

Prof Foster added: “We can defend our sleep and we can mitigate some of the consequences of poor sleep.

“If you’re the sort of person that needs eight or nine hours, make sure you are going to bed earlier, so that when you wake up in the morning you’ve had enough sleep. That’s where we have control.

“But if you cannot get enough sleep, then you can look at some of the other risk factors, by watching what and when you eat and trying to exercise.”

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