According to a major study, seven out of ten heart attacks and strokes could be prevented if everyone could simply get a good night’s sleep.
Researchers followed more than 7,000 healthy people over the age of 50 for a decade – and found that only one in 10 consistently got a good night’s sleep.
Compared to the worst sleepers, those who were well rested saw their risk of heart disease or stroke drop by 75%. Scientists estimate that if all adults slept well on a regular basis, the number of heart attacks and strokes would drop by 72%.
Researchers said modern ’24/7′ lives, with many of us glued to smartphones and struggling to unwind in the evenings, meant a good night’s sleep had become an increasing rarity. .
Around 100,000 people in the UK are killed each year by heart disease and strokes.
The findings suggest tens of thousands of lives could be saved simply by improving the nation’s sleep habits.
Reducing stress is key to improving sleep
Speaking at the annual congress of the European Society of Cardiology in Barcelona, Dr Aboubakari Nambiema, a senior scientist at France’s National Institute of Health and Medical Research, said reducing stress was key to improving quality of sleep.
“The vast majority of people have trouble sleeping,” he said. “As cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, more awareness is needed about the importance of good sleep in maintaining a healthy heart.”
French researchers scored volunteers out of five for five key sleep habits, with zero being the lowest score.
The optimal scores were obtained by sleeping seven to eight hours per night, never or rarely having insomnia, without daytime sleepiness or sleep apnea and being a morning person.
After eight years of follow-up, 274 of 7,203 participants had a heart attack or stroke.
The study found that the risk decreased by 22% for each one-point increase in sleep score.
Around seven per cent of volunteers had the lowest score of zero or one – while the majority scored three or four.
The researchers said the stark differences showed the need for the public to be educated about 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 behaviors are established. Minimizing nighttime noise and work stress can help improve sleep.
Lack of sleep increases heart risks
Professor Russell Foster, a sleep expert, said lack of sleep leaves the body abnormally stressed, which increases a host of risks to the heart.
Professor Foster, from the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford, said: “The mechanism, in my opinion, is an abnormal activation of the stress response resulting from the need to replace the lack of sleep.
“What we do know is that you have high blood pressure, altered immune responses, inflammation, you have all kinds of physiologies that over the long term can lead to an increased risk of stroke and seizures. heart.”
The sleep expert and author of Life Time said feeling tired during the day, needing coffee to stay awake and having trouble getting out of bed were all signs of not being well rested, while he urged the nation to adopt consistent habits and prioritize sleep.
Professor Foster added: “We can defend our sleep and we can mitigate some of the consequences of poor sleep.
“If you’re the kind of person who needs eight or nine hours, make sure you go to bed earlier, so when you wake up in the morning you’ve had enough sleep. That’s where we have control.
“But if you can’t get enough sleep, then you can look at some of the other risk factors, watching what and when you eat and trying to exercise.”
Most heart attacks and strokes could be prevented if everyone got a good night’s sleep