A good sleep regenerates us, allows the brain to organize memories and what we learned during the day in order to improve memory, regulates metabolism and counteracts fatigue by recovering energy. But a good sleep also supports health, especially of the heart. This is what emerges from a very recent scientific research published in the journal Circulation of the American Heart Association by a team of American scientists from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston and Tulane University, New Orleans (Li et al, Circulation, Nov 2020).
Heart failure is a condition in which the heart loses power and is no longer able to supply an adequate amount of blood to the body. More than 26 million people are estimated to have heart failure worldwide. It has also been observed that sleep-related problems may play a role in the development of this condition. The American scientists have focused their research precisely on the purpose of better understanding this connection. The data concerning the health and quality of sleep of 408.802 people, between 37 and 73 years old, participating in a large study, called UK Biobank, started in 2006 in the United Kingdom and aimed at understanding lifestyles and particular genetic predispositions that can lead to the development of diseases, were analyzed. Sleep quality was measured thanks to various parameters, including sleep duration, presence or absence of insomnia, snoring, sleepiness during the day and wake-up time in the morning. What emerged was that those who had the best sleep quality also had a 42% lower risk of developing heart failure than those with sleep disorders. Quality sleep was defined as 7 to 8 hours of nocturnal sleep, early wake up in the morning, absence of daytime sleepiness and infrequent episodes of insomnia. Not only that, the researchers have also been able to calculate how each behavior can affect heart health. In particular, in the early risers the risk of heart failure was 8% less than in those who woke up very late in the morning. In those who slept 7 to 8 hours the risk of heart failure was 12% less than in those who slept fewer or more hours. In those who didn’t have frequent episodes of insomnia the risk of heart failure was 17% lower than those who experienced frequent insomnia episodes and finally in those who reported no daytime sleepiness the risk of heart failure was 34% lower than those who had daytime sleepiness.
Episodes of insomnia happen to everyone and it may also happen to go through periods in which we feel more tired, but the study allows us to understand that it is important to act, in the long run, at the level of habits to improve the quality of sleep and also the health of the heart.