Toss­ing and turn­ing at night could dou­ble the risk of a heart at­tack

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HEALTH - By LAURA DON­NELLY

Peo­ple who toss and turn in their sleep are twice as likely to suf­fer a heart at­tack, re­search sug­gests.

Sci­en­tists said reg­u­lar wak­ing in the night should be seen as a warn­ing of fu­ture ill-health.

The study of nearly 13,000 peo­ple found that peo­ple who strug­gled to sleep through the night were 99 per cent more likely to suf­fer from heart at­tacks or se­vere angina.

Those who took more than half an hour to fall asleep or got less than six hours of sleep a night were also at in­creased risk.

The Ja­panese re­search did not es­tab­lish why there were such a strong as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween sleep and heart health.

But sci­en­tists said that the act of con­stant wak­ing might cause “over­ac­tiv­ity” in the ner­vous sys­tem, which could raise heart the heart rate and blood pres­sure, plac­ing ex­tra strain on the heart.

Poor sleep could also be a symp­tom of poor health, mean­ing that those with heart prob­lems were less likely to get a de­cent night’s sleep.

The re­search found peo­ple who took more than half an hour to fall asleep had a 52 per cent in­creased heart at­tack risk and 48 per cent in­creased risk of a stroke.

And those who got less than six hours of sleep a night were 24 per cent more likely to have a heart at­tack.

Study leader Dr Nobuo Sasaki, of Hiroshima Uni­ver­sity in Ja­pan, said: “Poor sleep in pa­tients with is­chaemic heart dis­ease may be char­ac­terised by shorter sleep and brief mo­ments of wak­ing up.”

His study ex­am­ined sta­tis­ti­cal trends, so could not es­tab­lish the rea­sons for the links.

But Dr Sasaki, pre­sent­ing his find­ings at the Euro­pean So­ci­ety of Car­di­ol­ogy con­gress in Barcelona, said that poor sleep could dis­rupt the way the body runs its core func­tions — pulse, breathing and blood pres­sure.

The act of wak­ing was likely to dis­turb the body’s sym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem, he said.

The main func­tion of the sys­tem is to ac­ti­vate the phys­i­o­log­i­cal changes that oc­cur dur­ing the body’s fight-or-flight re­sponse.

This could re­sult in raised heart rate and blood pres­sure, in­creas­ing strain on the heart.

Dr Sasaki con­cluded: “Our re­sults sup­port the hy­poth­e­sis that sleep de­te­ri­o­ra­tion may lead to car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease. Poor sleep in pa­tients with is­chaemic heart dis- ease may be char­ac­terised by shorter sleep and brief mo­ments of wak­ing up.”

He added: “Dif­fi­culty main­tain­ing sleep re­flects an in­crease in sleep frag­men­ta­tion, which refers to brief mo­ments of wak­ing up and causes over­ac­tiv­ity of the sym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem and adreno­cor­ti­cal axis.”

Pre­vi­ous re­search, pub­lished by the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia San Fran­cisco last year, sug­gests peo­ple who do not sleep all the way through the night are at a 29 per cent in­creased risk of de­vel­op­ing an ir­reg­u­lar heart­beat.

Sleep prob­lems have also been linked to in­creased risk of can­cer, obe­sity, di­a­betes and Parkin­son’s.

A study pub­lished in 2014 sug­gested peo­ple in the UK get two hours less sleep a night than they did 60 years ago.

Pro­fes­sor Metin Avki­ran, As­so­ciate Medical Di­rec­tor at the Bri­tish Heart Foun­da­tion, said: “Dis­turbed or poor-qual­ity sleep can lead to in­creased heart rate, blood pres­sure and the re­lease of chem­i­cals linked


to in­flam­ma­tion of the heart — all of which put it un­der strain. Although the odd rest­less night is not harm­ful to our health, it could be a sign of some­thing more se­ri­ous if this be­comes the norm.”

“Mak­ing some small life­style changes, such as eat­ing a healthy bal­anced diet, re­duc­ing al­co­hol in­take, and man­ag­ing your stress lev­els, will all help to give you the best chance of a good night’s rest.”


Those with dis­rupted sleep were twice as likely to have heart at­tacks and angina.

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