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New study links bad sleep to hardened arteries

Bad sleep can have more consequences than just leaving you too tired to function at work the next day. A study has linked short, fragmented sleep to a higher risk of hardened arteries.

The risk is highest for those who get less than six hours of sleep each night or who wake up frequently.

“Bad sleeping habits are very common in Western societies and previous studies have suggested that both short and long sleep are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Fernando Dominguez of the Spanish National Centre for Cardiovascular Research said in a press release.

Noting that there was a lack of large studies on the effects of bad sleep on atherosclerosis, the researchers signed up 3,974 middle-aged, healthy adults. Each of the study participants wore a waistband monitor for a full week to measure their sleep habits. They were split into five groups.

Then, their level of atherosclerosis was measured using ultrasound of neck and leg arteries. After the researchers adjusted for risk factors like body mass index, smoking and drinking, stress levels, cholesterol, diet and others, they found that bad sleep can significantly raise the risk of hardened arteries compared to those who got seven to eight hours of sleep a night.

Those with more fragmented sleep were more likely to have multiple sections of hardened arteries than those who slept soundly.

And that wasn’t the only negative effect bad sleep could have on health.

“People who had short or disrupted sleep were also more likely to have metabolic syndrome, which refers to the combination of diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity, and depicts an unhealthy lifestyle,” Dominguez said.

Bad sleep should be considered a risk factor in atherosclerosis moving forward, the researchers said.

The study will be presented today at the European Society of Cardiology Congress. Funding was provided by the Fundación Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III, Banco Santander, Institute of Health Carlos III and the European Regional Development Fund.  

By Kyla Cathey, staff writer

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