A recent study conducted by researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center reveals that even a small reduction in sleep time can significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in healthy women in the long term. This finding emphasizes the importance of getting enough sleep to maintain good health.
Experts recommend that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night to prevent the development of various health issues, including heart disease. Women, in particular, often report sleep disturbances more frequently than men and have a higher risk of inflammation and cardiovascular problems due to inadequate sleep.
The inner lining of blood vessels, known as the endothelium, plays a crucial role in preventing oxidative stress, which can lead to inflammation and dysfunction of blood vessels, ultimately causing cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis and high blood pressure. Previous studies on sleep deprivation have mainly focused on the physiological effects of a few nights of inadequate sleep. However, the researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center wanted to investigate the impact of mild sleep deprivation over a longer period on women’s blood vessels.
To mimic the common sleep patterns of individuals who tend to push back their bedtime, the researchers recruited healthy female participants with a regular sleep duration of seven to nine hours per night. The participants were divided into two groups: the control group maintained their regular sleep time, while the other group had their bedtime postponed by one-and-a-half hours but woke up at the same time as usual. After six weeks, the groups switched sleep patterns for another six weeks. The participants’ sleep duration was monitored using wrist-worn sleep trackers.
Upon examining the participants’ endothelial cells, the researchers discovered that oxidative stress levels increased by 78% after sleep restriction compared to adequate sleep. This suggests that even mild and prolonged sleep deprivation can promote oxidative stress and contribute to inflammation and dysfunction of blood vessels in healthy women.
Furthermore, the researchers noted that despite the significant increase in oxidative stress, antioxidant responses were completely lacking in the cells. In other words, mild sleep deprivation caused cellular inflammation and dysfunction, which are early signs of cardiovascular disease.
According to Sanja Jelic, the corresponding author of the study, this research provides direct evidence that even mild chronic sleep deficits can lead to heart disease. Previous studies only showed associations between sleep and heart health through epidemiological studies, which could be influenced by various confounding factors. Only randomized controlled studies can determine the causal relationship between sleep deprivation and heart disease and identify the specific changes in the body that increase cardiovascular risk due to inadequate sleep.
In conclusion, the researchers stress the importance of prioritizing adequate sleep to maintain good health. Jelic advises that getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night could help prevent numerous health issues. Young and healthy individuals need to be aware that consistently getting less sleep than that recommended timeframe can significantly aggravate their cardiovascular risk.
The researchers plan to further investigate whether irregular variations in bedtime have the same impact on vascular cells as chronic but regular sleep deprivation does.