Sleep is a new 8th measure of heart health

Credit: Bruce Mars/ Unsplash

About 50 to 70 million Americans have sleep disorders, and 1 in 3 adults do not regularly get the recommended amount of uninterrupted sleep they need to protect their health.

In a study from Columbia University, scientists found an expanded measure of heart health that includes sleep as an eighth metric, in relation to heart disease risk.

This represents the first examination of adding sleep to the American Heart Association’s original Life’s Simple 7 (LS7) metrics as a novel eighth metric of heart health.

In the study, the team used data from 2000 middle-aged to older adults in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.

These people participated in a sleep exam and provided comprehensive data on their sleep characteristics.

The research examined expanded heart health scores —including the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 (LS7) metrics—plus different sleep health measures, to evaluate which sleep parameters should be prioritized for heart disease prevention.

This study is the first to show that sleep metrics add independent value for heart disease events over and above the original 7 heart health metrics.

For the sleep duration metric, sleeping 7 hours or more but less than 9 hours each night was considered indicative of ideal sleep health.

The results demonstrate that sleep is an integral component of heart health.

Overall, the study found that 63 percent of participants slept less than 7 hours per night and 30 percent slept less than 6 hours, while 39 percent and 25 percent had high night-to-night variability in sleep duration and sleep timing, respectively; 14 percent and 36 percent reported having excessive daytime sleepiness and high insomnia symptoms, respectively; and 47 percent had moderate-to-severe sleep apnea (OSA), where breathing repeatedly stops and starts.

According to the team, the finding that a sleep health score based solely on sleep duration as well as a sleep health score based on multiple sleep dimensions both enhanced the definition of heart health can be explained, at least in part, by the clustering of sleep problems.

The study showed that people with a short sleep duration had higher chances of having low sleep efficiency, irregular sleep patterns (i.e., variable sleep duration and timing across days), excessive daytime sleepiness, and sleep apnea.

Notably, short sleepers also had a higher prevalence of overweight/ obesity, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension, suggesting that multiple unhealthy sleep dimensions may occur concurrently and potentially interact, further increasing the risk for heart disease.

The team says healthcare providers should assess their patients’ sleep patterns, discuss sleep-related problems, and educate patients about the importance of prioritizing sleep to promote heart health.

If you care about sleep, please read studies about a new way to detect sleep apnea, and this sleep supplement may help prevent memory loss.

For more information about wellness, please see recent studies about drugs that can treat sleep loss and insomnia, and results showing how to deal with “COVID-somnia” and sleep well at night.

The study was conducted by Nour Makarem et al and published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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