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Healthy sleep patterns can lower risk of heart failure by 42 percent

A new observational study, analyzing data from nearly half a million UK subjects, suggests healthy sleep habits are significantly linked to lower rates of heart failure. Incorporating several measures of sleep quality, the research suggests improving sleep behavior is an important intervention for both clinicians and patients looking to reduce risk of heart failure.

A large body of research has been growing over the past few years investigating the relationship between poor sleep and a variety of diseases. Most of these studies focus on the potential health implications of specific sleep behaviors, such as overall sleep durations or the impact of sleep deprivation.

This new study set out to analyze the relationship between a number of different sleep behaviors and the risk of heart failure. To do this a team of researchers looked at data from 408,802 UK subjects. Each subject was allocated an overall sleep quality score based on five specific measures: sleep duration, insomnia, snoring, daytime sleepiness, and chronotype (early morning risers or night owls).

The researchers found those subjects with the highest overall positive sleep score were 42 percent less likely to suffer from an episode of heart failure compared to those with the lowest sleep score. This rate of risk reduction was calculated after adjusting for a number of other factors known to influence coronary heart disease, including genetic variations, diabetes and hypertension.

Breaking down the individual sleep measures analyzed, the study found early birds had an 8 percent lower risk of heart failure, frequent insomnia was linked with 17 percent greater risk, and subjects reporting no levels of daytime sleepiness were 34 percent less likely to suffer heart failure.

“Sleep behaviors are intercorrelated, and the human body regulates sleep in a holistic way to maintain an overall constancy of sleep intensity, quality, and duration,” the researchers write in a letter published in the journal Circulation. “Thus, our study extends the previous findings on individual sleep behaviors by jointly evaluating multiple sleep behaviors.”

The study of course faces the same limitations found in most observational research. Sleep behaviors are self-reported, which often leads to recall bias. Plus, no causal connection can be explicitly drawn between these kinds of sleep behaviors and heart failure.

However, the findings do still present valuable new insights into the potential health benefits of thinking about good sleep from a broader perspective. Instead of focusing on just one or two sleep behaviors, such as how long you sleep every night, the new study suggests good sleep hygiene includes a number of different variables that all need to be taken into account.

The new research was published in the journal Circulation.



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