Insufficient And Irregular Sleep Linked To Inflammation, Atherosclerosis, Cardiovascular And Heart Diseases
: Medical researchers from University of California, Berkeley, have discovered a correlation between disrupted nightly sleep and clogged arteries caused by inflammation, which could lead to serious heart and cardiovascular diseases.
The research findings are published in the medical journal: PLOS Biology https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3000726
The sleep scientists from University of California reveal that fragmented sleep exacerbates atherosclerosis via a fatty arterial plaque buildup and may raise the risk of stroke via an effect on inflammatory pathways. These results provide a mechanism to explain the long-standing observation that poor sleep increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, and suggest simple and direct ways to reduce such risk.
Dr Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience who is also the senior author of the research told Thailand Medical News, "We have discovered that fragmented sleep is associated with a unique pathway ie chronic circulating inflammation throughout the blood stream which, in turn, is linked to higher amounts of plaques in coronary arteries,"
The researchers say that the study shows that poor sleep is a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which ranks as the top killer of Americans, with some 12,000 deaths per week .
Lead author Dr Raphael Vallat, a postdoctoral researcher in Walker's Center for Human Sleep Science at UC Berkeley said, "To the best of our knowledge, these data are the first to associate sleep fragmentation, inflammation and atherosclerosis in humans."
To clinically assess whether the effect may be due in part to increased inflammatory signaling, the authors measured sleep disruption through both sleep lab-based polysomnography and a simple movement detector worn on the wrist over multiple nights (actigraphy). They used standard blood cell counts to measure levels of neutrophils and monocytes, two types of white blood cells responsible for driving inflammatory pathways.
The researchers found that sleep fragmentation, as measured by actigraphy, predicted both higher neutrophil (but not monocyte) counts and higher coronary artery calcium, a measure of atherosclerosis pathology. Using a statistical method known as mediation analysis, they showed that the influence of sleep fragmentation on coronary artery calcium was mediated through the increase in neutrophils; in other words, poor sleep led to an increase in neutrophils, which in turn led to an increase in atherosclerosis. The influence of sleep disruption on neutrophils and atherosclerosis remained significant after accounting for multiple known contributors to artery disease, including age, sex, ethnicity, body mass index, smoking, blood pressure, and other factors.
Significantly a similar association was found for sleep disruption as measured by polysomnography, although it was not as robust, remaining significant after correcting for some but not all contributors, a difference the authors suggest may be due to the shorter duration of polysomnography (a single night) versus actigraphy (one week). No association was found for su
bjectively reported poor sleep, in which subjects were asked to recall the quality of their sleep, a finding which suggests that asking patients about the sleep may not be a useful tool for assessing their sleep-related risk of heart disease.
Dr Walker added, "Improving sleep may offer a novel way to reduce inflammation and thus reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. These findings may help inform public health guidelines that seek to increase the continuity of sleep as a way to improve health and decrease the burden of heart disease on society."
The researchers suggested the following tips to improve sleep quality:
-Try maintaining a regular sleep routine, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
-Cultivate a habit in which as part of a nightly wind-down routine, avoid viewing computer, smartphone and TV screens in the last hour before bedtime, and keep phones and other digital devices out of the bedroom.
-Always engage in some form of physical exercise during the day.
-Always try to get exposure to natural daylight, especially in the first half of the day.
-Try to avoid stimulants, like caffeine, and sedatives, like alcohol, later in the day.
-Whenever you cannot sleep, get out of bed and do a relaxing activity away from the bedroom, such as reading in dim light. Only return to bed when you're sleepy.
-Make sure you get screened for sleep apnea if you are known to be a heavy snorer and/or feel excessively tired during the day.
-Always consult your doctor if you are experiencing insomnia, and inquire about cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI).
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