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Women with heart disease worse off with poor sleep

19-08-2013

The more we learn about sleep the more we realise how central it is to our general wellbeing and health. Sleep plays a vital role in both mental and physical health and lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep can have a vast array of consequences for both the healthy and those who are already sick or debilitated.

One recent study has found that women with coronary heart disease who are sleeping badly, and in particular those women who find that they are waking up too early in the morning, will have more than twice as much inflammation in their bodies, as those with coronary heart disease who are sleeping well. This study further proves the centrality of sleep to health and has worrying implications for those with heart problems and sleep issues.

The study’s findings indicate that poor sleep, and especially sleep that is cut short, could possibly play an important role in raising unhealthy inflammation levels and worsening chronic conditions such as heart disease. While this has worrying ramifications it also shows a possible means of easing the levels of inflammation. Anyone who has been diagnosed with coronary heart disease should be given sleep guidance, they could be monitored and surveyed to see how well they sleep and if they are struggling to get the sleep they need then they could be given information on how to improve their sleep. Fortunately there are many methods of getting more good quality sleep, from buying a better mattress through to changing the diet, from creating a sleeping environment that is conducive to sleep through to using a sleep aide such as a white noise machine.

The study was conducted by scientists from the University of California in San Francisco. It  looked at the link between sleep and changes in the inflammation levels of 700 older people with heart disease. Poor sleep, sleep that is usually defined as less than six hours per night,  was connected to increases in inflammation in the female patients over the course of the five-year study, but strangely, there was no similar correlation with male patients.

Females who had reported sleeping ‘poorly’ or ‘very poorly’ were found to have around 2.5 times as much inflammation as men. The cause of this gender variation could be that lower levels of oestrogen following the menopause explain the link between a lack of sleep and inflammation, while men were guaranteed a higher level of continued protection from their higher levels of testosterone, which did not drop as they age, like oestrogen does.

In the end, the lesson is that sleep is vital to your health and no matter whether you are healthy to start with or are already sick, if you are not sleeping well, either not getting enough or the quality is low, then it could be having a range of different effects on your overall wellbeing.

If you are not sleeping well then you need to try and make positive changes to your lifestyle and habits.
 


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