While I promote keeping your body moving and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle, it is nevertheless true that when it comes to resting, we need our sleep.
Nine in ten people do not get a good night’s sleep, according to research presented at ESC Congress 2022. The study found that sub-optimal sleep was associated with a higher likelihood of heart disease and stroke. The authors estimated that seven in ten of these cardiovascular conditions could be prevented if everyone were a good sleeper.
“The low prevalence of good sleepers was expected given our busy, 24/7 lives,” said study author Dr. Aboubakari Nambiema of INSERM (the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research), Paris, France. “The importance of sleep quality and quantity for heart health should be taught early in life when healthy behaviors become established. Minimizing night-time noise and stress at work can both help improve sleep.”
Previous studies on sleep and heart disease have generally focused on one sleep habit, such as sleep duration or sleep apnea, where breathing stops and starts while sleeping. In addition, prior studies have often assessed sleep at baseline only. The current study used a healthy sleep score combining five sleep habits. The researchers investigated the association between the baseline sleep score, and changes over time in the sleep score, and incident cardiovascular disease.
Regular readers know that I am an old man and very highly value a good night’s sleep. That is not the way I felt 20 years ago when I was in the working world. In those days I felt strongly that sleep was an intrusion on my life and activities and resented having to do it. I got a little wiser as the years went by. Please check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep? for significantly more details on this very important aspect of living a long healthy life.
Losing sleep in favor of some good holiday fun a few times each year is nothing to worry about, but chronic sleep deprivation can have adverse health effects. Some of us are affected more than others, however, and new research helps us understand why. For some of us, it may be harder to perform certain cognitive tasks after a sleepless night.
With 50 to 70 million adults in the United States having a “sleep or wakefulness disorder,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consider sleep deprivation a “public health concern.”
Sleep loss is especially alarming given its status as a significant risk factor for traffic accidents and medical mishaps, as well as posing a danger to one’s health.
Insufficient sleep could increase the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and cancer, among others conditions. Cognitively, sleep deprivation has a wide range of adverse effects. In fact, the CDC report that 23.2 percent of U.S. adults aged 20 and above have trouble concentrating, and another 18.2 percent say that they have trouble remembering things as a result of losing sleep.
However, new research shows that the cognitive effects of sleep loss vary from person to person, and that these differences may be down to our genetic makeup.
Scientists led by Paul Whitney, who is a professor of psychology at Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman, found a genetic variation that explains why some people perform certain cognitive tasks a lot better than others after they have been sleep deprived.
The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Testing the effects of sleep deprivation
Whitney and colleagues examined the cognitive abilities of 49 healthy adults who were aged 27, on average. Of these adults, 34 were assigned to a sleep deprivation group, while 15 were assigned to a control group. The former went for a period of 38 hours without sleep, while the controls slept normally.
To test the participants’ cognitive abilities, the researchers asked them to complete a task before and after the intervention, using a computer screen and a mouse.
The purpose of the task was to assess flexible attentional control by testing the participants’ ability to correctly click the left mouse button when they see a certain letter combination on the screen, and the right mouse button for all the other letter pairs. Participants were instructed to perform the task as quickly and accurately as possible. Importantly, in the middle of the experiment, they were suddenly asked to switch and click the left mouse button for another letter combination.
Whitney and team also performed genotype analyses on the participants and divided the sleep-deprived group into three subgroups, based on three variants of a gene called DRD2.
The DRD2 gene is a dopaminergic receptor that regulates information processing in a brain area associated with cognitive flexibility.
Gene variant protects from sleep loss effects
After the attentional “switch” in the middle of the task, some participants became confused and performed poorly at the “new” task.
However, participants with a particular variation of the DRD2 gene performed just as well as the control group. Study co-author Hans Van Dongen, director of the WSU Sleep and Performance Research Center, explains the significance of the findings, saying, “Our research shows this particular gene influences a person’s ability to mentally change direction when given new information.”
“Some people are protected from the effects of sleep deprivation by this particular gene variation but, for most of us, sleep loss does something to the brain that simply prevents us from switching gears when circumstances change,” Van Dongen says.
Whitney also weighs in on the findings, saying: “Our work shows that there are people who are resilient to the effects of sleep deprivation when it comes to cognitive flexibility. Surprisingly these same people are just as affected as everyone else on other tasks that require different cognitive abilities, such as maintaining focus.” “This confirms something we have long suspected,” he adds, “namely that the effects of sleep deprivation are not general in nature, but rather depend on the specific task and the genes of the person performing the task.” “Our long-term goal is to be able to train people so that no matter what their genetic composition is, they will be able to recognize and respond appropriately to changing scenarios, and be less vulnerable to sleep loss,” Whitney concludes.
Study using the American Heart Association framework provides evidence that sleep is integral to preserving heart health.
Researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health evaluated an expanded measure of cardiovascular health (CVH) that includes sleep as an eighth metric, in relation to cardiovascular 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 CVH. The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
The study sample consisted of ~2000 middle-aged to older adults from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), an ongoing U.S. study of CVD and CVD risk factors, who participated in a sleep exam and provided comprehensive data on their sleep characteristics.
The research evaluated multiple expanded cardiovascular 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 CVD prevention. This study is the first to show that sleep metrics add independent predictive value for CVD events over and above the original 7 CVH metrics.
Importantly, cardiovascular health scores that included sleep duration only as a measure of overall sleep health as well as cardiovascular health scores that included multiple dimensions of sleep health (i.e. sleep duration, efficiency, and regularity, daytime sleepiness, and sleep disorders) were both predictive of future CVD. For the sleep duration metric, sleeping 7 hours or more but less than 9 hours each night was considered indicative of ideal sleep health.
Getting a consistent good night’s sleep supports normal production and programming of hematopoietic stem cells, a building block of the body’s innate immune system, according to a small National Institutes of Health-supported study in humans and mice. Sleep has long been linked to immune function, but researchers discovered that getting enough of it influenced the environment where monocytes – a type of white blood cell – form, develop, and get primed to support immune function. This process, hematopoiesis, occurs in the bone marrow.
“What we are learning is that sleep modulates the production of cells that are the protagonists – the main actors – of inflammation,” said Filip K. Swirski, Ph.D., a senior study author and director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City. “Good, quality sleep reduces that inflammatory burden.”
Humans help each other — it’s one of the foundations of civilized society. But a new study by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, reveals that a lack of sleep blunts this fundamental human attribute, with real-world consequences.
Lack of sleep is known to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes, hypertension and overall mortality. However, these new discoveries show that a lack of sleep also impairs our basic social conscience, making us withdraw our desire and willingness to help other people.
Napping, as well as sleeping too much or too little or having poor sleep patterns, appears to increase the risk for cardiovascular disease in older adults, new research shows.
The study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, adds to a growing body of evidence supporting sleep’s importance to good health. The American Heart Association recently added sleep duration to its checklist of health and lifestyle factors for cardiovascular health, known as Life’s Essential 8. It says adults should average seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
“Good sleep behavior is essential to preserve cardiovascular health in middle-aged and older adults,” said lead author Weili Xu, a senior researcher at the Aging Research Center in the department of neurobiology, care sciences and society at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. “We encourage people to keep nighttime sleeping between seven to nine hours and to avoid frequent or excessive napping.”
Prior research has shown poor sleep may put people at higher risk for a range of chronic illnesses and conditions affecting heart and brain health. These include cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 35% of U.S. adults say they get less than seven hours of sleep, while 3.6% say they get 10 or more hours.
Previous sleep duration studies show that sleeping too much or too little both may raise the risk for cardiovascular disease. But whether napping is good or bad has been unclear.
In the new study, researchers analyzed sleep patterns for 12,268 adults in the Swedish Twin Registry. Participants were an average of 70 years old at the start of the study, with no history of major cardiovascular events.
A questionnaire was used to collect data on nighttime sleep duration; daytime napping; daytime sleepiness; the degree to which they considered themselves a night person or morning person, based on the time of day they considered themselves most alert; and symptoms of sleep disorders, such as snoring and insomnia. Participants were followed for up to 18 years to track whether they developed any major cardiovascular problems, including heart disease and stroke.
People who reported sleeping between seven and nine hours each night were least likely to develop cardiovascular disease, a finding in keeping with prior research. Compared with that group, those who reported less than seven hours were 14% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, and those who reported more than 10 hours were 10% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease.
Compared with people who said they never napped, those who reported napping up to 30 minutes were 11% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. The risk increased by 23% if naps lasted longer than 30 minutes. Overall, those who reported poor sleep patterns or other sleep issues – including insomnia, heavy snoring, getting too much or too little sleep, frequent daytime sleepiness and considering themselves a night person – had a 22% higher risk
Study participants who reported less than seven hours of sleep at night and napping more than 30 minutes each day had the highest risk for cardiovascular disease – 47% higher than those reporting the optimal amount of sleep and no naps.
The jury is still out on whether naps affect cardiovascular risk across the lifespan, said Marie-Pierre St-Onge, center director for the Sleep Center of Excellence and an associate professor at Columbia University in New York City. She noted that the new research, which she was not involved in, was restricted to older adults.
Rather than trying to recoup sleep time by napping, people should try to develop healthier sleep habits that allow them to get an optimal amount of sleep at night, St-Onge said. This includes making sure the sleep environment is not too hot or cold or too noisy. Reducing exposure to bright light before going to sleep, not eating too late at night, getting enough exercise during the day and eating a healthful diet also help.
“Even if sleep is lost during the night, excessive napping is not suggested during the day,” Xu said. And, if people have persistent trouble getting enough sleep, they should consult a health care professional to figure out why, she said.
I have written about how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. You can check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep? I was happy to see this information on the subject by the American Heart Association.
Improving your overall sleep health could help lower your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and other cardiovascular threats, according to new research.
Experts already knew a lack of sleep and having sleep disorders can put health at risk. But the new study looked into whether the multiple factors that go into a good night’s sleep are collectively associated with health risks.
To measure overall sleep health, the researchers created a multi-dimensional score based on the average amount of sleep each night, the consistency of bedtime and wake-up times, and how long it takes to fall asleep. They also factored in excessive daytime sleepiness and symptoms of sleep disorders such as snoring and difficulty breathing during sleep.
Going to sleep between 10:00 and 11:00 pm is associated with a lower risk of developing heart disease compared to earlier or later bedtimes, according to a study published in European Heart Journal – Digital Health, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).
“The body has a 24-hour internal clock, called circadian rhythm, that helps regulate physical and mental functioning,” said study author Dr. David Plans of the University of Exeter, UK. “While we cannot conclude causation from our study, the results suggest that early or late bedtimes may be more likely to disrupt the body clock, with adverse consequences for cardiovascular health.”
While numerous analyses have investigated the link between sleep duration and cardiovascular disease, the relationship between sleep timing and heart disease is under-explored. This study examined the association between objectively measured, rather than self-reported, sleep onset in a large sample of adults.
Researchers from the National Cheng Kung University Hospital in Taiwan combined the results of past studies to understand the effect that listening to music can have on the quality of older adults’ sleep. Their work suggests that:
Older adults (ages 60 and up) living at home sleep better when they listen to music for 30 minutes to one hour at bedtime.
Calm music improves older adults’ sleep quality better than rhythmic music does.
Older adults should listen to music for more than four weeks to see the most benefit from listening to music.
Why Older Adults Have Trouble Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
As we age, our sleep cycles change and make a good night’s sleep harder to achieve. What does it really mean to get a good night’s sleep? If you wake up rested and ready to start your day, you probably slept deeply the night before. But if you’re tired during the day, need coffee to keep you going, or wake up several times during the night, you may not be getting the deep sleep you need.  According to the National Institute on Aging, older adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
But studies have shown that 40 to 70 percent of older adults have sleep problems and over 40 percent have insomnia, meaning they wake up often during the night or too early in the morning. Sleep problems can make you feel irritable and depressed, can cause memory problems, and can even lead to falls or accidents.
I have posted numerous times about the benefits of a good night’s sleep. Now it turns out that previous head injuries can also affect night time rest.
Every year, thousands of people end up in the emergency room or hospital with minor head injuries, often diagnosed as concussions. Concussions usually result from falls, violence, bicycle accidents or sports injuries.
In the first days following a severe concussion, it is common to experience headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, an increased need for sleep or difficulty sleeping.
“Most people fully recover from their problems after a short time, but some individuals suffer long-term problems that affect their quality of life, work and school,” says PhD candidate researcher Simen Berg Saksvik at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Department of Psychology.
Older adults with depression may be at much higher risk of remaining depressed if they are experiencing persistent or worsening sleep problems, according to a study from researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The researchers, who published their findings online April 30 in the journal Sleep, analyzed data from almost 600 people over 60 years old who visited primary care centers in the Northeast U.S. All patients met clinical criteria for major or minor depression at the outset of the study. Continue reading →
As the COVID-19 pandemic toll continues to grow, the advice is even more relevant.
“We don’t have a proven vaccine, and we don’t have proven treatments,” said Garrett-Price, a family practice physician with Baylor Scott & White Health System in Dallas. “So, our immune system is our first line of defense.”
Although a strong immune system is helpful, he and other health experts stress the guidelines in place to battle the coronavirus’s spread remain crucial: social distancing, frequent hand-washing, avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands, and staying at home as much as possible to avoid getting COVID-19 in the first place. Continue reading →
We’ve all been told steps to take to minimize exposure to Covid-19
What has not been stated often enough are the ACTIVE STEPS one must take to strengthen the immune system prior to potential exposure to this disease?
Consider including these five essential components:
Get adequate sleep:
Approx. 6-9 hours of QUALITY sleep is required to repair and restore the body to maximal function from normal exposure to environmental toxins and physical activities of daily living.
Discover constructive methods to deal with stress. Activities that positively impact the way you FEEL inhibit damaging hormones from weakening immune function. Everyone has stress; learning to effectively CHANNEL it is the key to successfully managing it.
Don’t deprive yourself from foods you enjoy. These foods, however, should only be eaten AFTER a healthy, well balanced meal is consumed. Food provides both nutrition and INFORMATION…
I have written repeatedly about getting a good night’s sleep. You can check my page – How important is a good night’s sleep? for more details. Regular readers also know about my concern about cognition and the vulnerability of an aging brain because of the Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia in my family.
A preliminary study by researchers at Uppsala University has found that when young, healthy men were deprived of just one night of sleep, they had higher levels of tau – a biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease – in their blood than when they had a full, uninterrupted night of rest. The study is published in the medical journal Neurology.
Tau is a protein found in neurons and the protein can form into tangles. These accumulate in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. This accumulation can start decades before symptoms of the disease appear. Previous studies of older adults have suggested that sleep deprivation can increase the level of tau in the cerebral spinal fluid. Trauma to the head can also increase circulating concentrations of tau in blood.
Published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, the research is not only one of the largest studies, but also the first to assess how sleep deprivation impacts placekeeping – or, the ability to complete a series of steps without losing one’s place, despite potential interruptions. This study builds on prior research from MSU’s sleep scientists to quantify the effect lack of sleep has on a person’s ability to follow a procedure and maintain attention. Continue reading →