If you go to bed and wake up at different times during the week – or if your sleep is interrupted at night – you may experience increased risk of heart diseaseaccording to a new study published by the American Heart Association.
The study involved 2,032 older adults, measuring both the duration and timing of their sleep.
For seven days, the participants kept a sleep diary and wore a special wristwatch that tracked the quality of their sleep by measuring movement and oxygen levels.
Those who had Irregular sleep pattern — including differences in the time they went to bed and breaks in sleep during the night — were more likely to show signs of atherosclerosis.
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Atherosclerosis, also known as coronary heart disease, is “thickening or hardening of the arteries caused by plaque buildup on the lining of an artery,” as defined by the Johns Hopkins Medicine website.
The researchers adjusted for external factors, including prior cardiovascular disease, obstructive sleep apnea, and other sleep disorders.
“Sleep irregularity, especially uneven sleep duration, has been associated with several markers of subclinical atherosclerosis,” the study authors write.
“Sleep regularity may be a modifiable target for reducing the risk of atherosclerosis.”
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The study was led by Dr. Kelsey M. Full of Vanderbilt University Medical Center along with researchers from Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins Medical School and other institutions.
Disruption of the sleep cycle can lead to increased inflammation and increased blood pressure.
This was part of the Multiethnic Atherosclerosis Study (MESA), which included more than 6,000 men and women from six US communities.
The study is different from many others
Dr. Pranav Patel, Certified Cardiologist Inspira Medical Group Cardiology in New Jerseysaid this study is different from many others that have previously linked sleep deprivation to adverse heart problems.
“What’s new in this study is that the group of people includes all races. Until the 2000s, most of the studies looked primarily at Caucasian men,” he said in an interview with Fox News Digital.
Patel did not participate in the study.
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Among those whose sleep patterns changed by two hours or more every day, the study found an increase in the incidence of coronary heart disease.
“This study also showed an increase in plaque formation on the extremities.”
“Essentially, this means that they are more likely to have plaque in the heart vessels that supply the muscles that are used to pump blood to the rest of the body,” the doctor says. Patel said.
“This study also showed an increase in plaque on the extremities”—arms and legs—”what we call peripheral vascular disease,” he continued.
He added that sleep cycle disruptions can lead to increased inflammation and higher blood pressurewhich can cause fat to build up in the arteries.
“When you’re sleeping, you’re calm and your blood pressure probably doesn’t fluctuate, but when you’re awake, your blood pressure is more elevated because you have to function and do most of your daily tasks,” he said. .
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“It all goes back to the circadian rhythm, which is the natural sleep-wake cycle that most people have. In people with irregular sleep patterns, this cycle is disrupted, leading to increased inflammation and increased blood pressure.”
Dr. Patel said the study was removed risk factors such as diabetes and previous high blood pressure, when looking only at sleep irregularity – “a new discovery that has not yet been presented.”
To achieve a more regular sleep pattern, Dr. Patel recommends setting sleep times within the same 30-minute window each night.
Those who have problems with snoring or sleep apnea should see a doctor for treatment, he said.
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The authors of the study noted that more research is needed to explore ways to reduce the risk caused by irregular sleep.
Fox News Digital has reached out to the lead writer for comment.