Poor sleep and ischaemic heart disease
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Ischaemic heart disease (IHD) is a heart condition that occurs due to the narrowing of blood vessels of the heart. As a result, there is an inadequate supply of oxygen and blood to the heart muscles, which may eventually lead to a heart attack.1 It may also be referred to as coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease.1

The primary risk factors for IHD are related to age, gender, body weight, diet and unhealthy habits such as cigarette smoking.2 However, some recent studies indicated that sleep disturbances such as shorter sleep and brief moments of waking up are associated with IHD.3 In this article, we will discuss the risk of IHD in people who have poor sleeping habits.

What happens in ischaemic heart disease?

IHD involves narrowing and blockage of the coronary artery due to atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries). This occurs due to the deposition of a substance called plaque, containing fat and cholesterol, in the blood vessels. The plaque clogs the artery and blocks the blood supply to the heart muscle. This inadequate supply of oxygen and vital nutrients to the heart causes chest pain due to the cramping of the heart muscle. If the heart is unable to get the required oxygen, it may ultimately lead to a heart attack.2

How does poor sleep affect heart health?

Poor sleep includes the following conditions:3

  • Extremely short or very long sleep duration
  • Difficulty in falling asleep
  • Difficulty in maintaining adequate sleep

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended 7 hours of sleep for optimal health in a 2017 report. It is essential that doctors recognise that poor sleep increases heart risks and pay more attention to sleep quality and duration in people.4 Several reasons, such as certain medications, health conditions, working in shifts or late-night socialising, are responsible for poor sleep.5 Studies indicate the following reasons for poor sleep as a risk factor in IHD:6-8

  • Experimental data shows that poor sleep is responsible for pathological changes, such as increased blood pressure, inflammation, oxidative stress and the disruption of endothelial (a membrane in the blood vessels and heart) function. These are the major risk factors of IHD.6
  • Some studies have associated the duration of sleep with the risk of IHD. People who sleep for less than 5 hours at night can be at an increased risk of IHD compared to those who sleep for 8 hours at night.7 Furthermore, the duration of sleep is associated with increased inflammatory responses in the body, which increases the risk of IHD.8
  • A study also showed the association of sleep quality with the risk of IHD. A link between poor sleep profile and IHD has been reported. A possible explanation is an increase in circulating levels of some chemicals in the blood that lead to obesity, reduce energy utilisation and impair glucose metabolism, which are risk factors for IHD.8

In conclusion, the duration of sleep and sleep quality are important risk factors for IHD. Since you can change your sleep habits, it is in your hands to get a good night’s sleep and protect your heart from the risks of IHD.

Avoid staying awake late at nights and stay away from IHD. Sleep well and achieve good heart health this holiday season.

References:

  1. American Heart Association. Silent ischemia and ischemic heart disease [Internet]. [updated 2015 Jul 31; cited 2019 Dec 26]. Available from: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/about-heart-attacks/silent-ischemia-and-ischemic-heart-disease.
  2. Cleveland Clinic. Coronary heart disease [Internet]. [updated 2019 May 14; cited 2019 Dec 26]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16898-coronary-artery-disease.
  3. European Society of Cardiology. Poor sleep is associated with ischaemic heart disease and stroke [Internet]. [updated 2017 Aug 29; cited 2019 Dec 26]. Available from: https://www.escardio.org/The-ESC/Press-Office/Press-releases/Poor-sleep-is-associated-with-ischaemic-heart-disease-and-stroke.
  4. Kuehn BM. Sleep duration linked to cardiovascular disease. Circulation. 2019;139:2483-2484. doi: 10.1161/Circulationaha.119.041278.
  5. Victoria State Government. Better health channel. Sleep deprivation [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 26]. Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/sleep-deprivation.
  6. Yuan R, Wang J, Guo L. The effect of sleep deprivation on coronary heart disease. Chin Med Sci J. 2016;31(4):247-253.
  1. Ayas NT, White DP, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ, Speizer FE, Malhotra A. A prospective study of sleep duration and coronary heart disease in women. Arch Intern Med. 2003;163(2):205-209. doi:10.1001/archinte.163.2.205.
  1. Lao XQ, Liu X, Deng HB, Chan TC, Ho KF, Wang F. Sleep quality, sleep duration, and the risk of coronary heart disease: A prospective cohort study with 60,586 adults. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2018;14(1):109-117. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.6894.

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