Lack of sleep leads to heart problems, according to a new study published in journal Hypertension. Researchers believe that going to sleep at the same time each night greatly reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Sleep helps the heart recover after the long day, investigators say.
The study at the University of Chicago was conducted on 26 healthy young people, aged 20 to 39. They were restricted from sleeping more than five hours a day for eight days. Furthermore, they were separated into two groups. Their bedtime was either fixed or delayed by 8.5 hours on only four of the eight nights.
Researchers then measured the participants’ blood pressure, heart rate, urinary levels of norepinephrine, and heart rate variability.
The findings showed that sleep-deprived people have a higher heart rate during the day. This was seen in both groups, but to a greater extent on the group that was also instructed to delay bedtime. Data revealed that participants had increased levels of the stress hormone – norepinephrine – in both of the groups. Norepinephrine is dangerous because it narrows blood vessels, expands the windpipe, and raises blood pressure.
Blood pressure, however, did not change in either one of the two groups.
The effects of not getting enough sleep have long been warned. Sleep deprivation makes humans more prone to diabetes, obesity, and even cancer. More so, new findings also clearly show that lack of sleep leads to heart problems as well.
Yet, until now, it was not clear why sleep is so beneficial to our overall health. The new research suggests that the answer may lie in the rejuvenation of the heart through sleep. And this is why the lack of sleep leads to heart problems. Investigators believe that this is strongly connected to the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm, or body clock, synchronises the body’s function to the 24-hour pattern of the rotation of Earth. This mechanism rules our daily rhythms. This also includes sleep and metabolism. Thus, altering this rhythm places a strain on the human body and creates health problems.
The most susceptible to suffer because of sleep deprivation are shift workers. They are constantly being exposed to an altered circadian rhythm. However, changing work hours is not a real option for everyone. Because of this, researchers are now trying to find a way to help shift workers. In the meantime, experts suggest that people working in shifts should combine healthy eating with physical activity. Overall, any lifestyle conditions that may lead to heart diseases should be minimized.
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