The researchers gave each person a “healthy sleep score” of 0 to 5, based on the number of healthy habits they reported.
Over roughly a decade, 5,221 study participants were diagnosed with heart failure — a chronic condition where the heart muscle can no longer pump efficiently enough to meet the body’s needs.
Overall, Qi’s team found, people who’d reported all five healthy sleep habits were 42% less likely to have heart failure than people who’d reported none or only one.
Of course, “good” sleepers might be generally health conscious, too. So, Qi’s team accounted for people’s exercise , diet, smoking and drinking habits, as well as medical conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure . They also factored in people’s education levels and household income.
And healthy sleep remained linked to a lower risk of heart failure.
The findings were published online Nov. 16 in the journal Circulation .
Dr. Roneil Malkani is an assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago.
He agreed that the findings might reflect the effects of undiagnosed sleep apnea. There’s also a possibility that early heart problems caused some sleep-related symptoms.
“Daytime sleepiness could be a symptom of worsening heart health,” Malkani said.
Of the five sleep behaviors, he noted, lack of daytime sleepiness was linked to the biggest reduction in heart failure risk.
That said, Malkani pointed to past research showing similar patterns: Poor sleep quality — whether defined as sleep apnea, excessive sleep or too little sleep — has been tied to greater health risks and shorter life span.
He said the “novelty” of this study is that it used a simple, straightforward way to gauge healthy sleep.
According to Qi, its message is similarly straightforward. “Getting seven to eight hours of sleep is better than five or six,” he said.
And if people have problems with insomnia , snoring or daytime drowsiness, Qi added, they should talk to their doctor.
T he American Academy of Sleep Medicine has more on healthy sleep.
SOURCES: Lu Qi, MD, PhD, professor, epidemiology, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans; Nieca Goldberg, MD, cardiologist, medical director, Joan Tisch Center for Women’s Health, NYU Langone Health, New York City; Roneil Malkani, MD, assistant professor, neurology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago; Circulation, Nov. 16, 2020, online
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