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Health Spotlight: Irregular sleep deadly for the heart

Health Spotlight: Irregular sleep deadly for the heart

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Lack of sleep is bad for health, but a recent Vanderbilt study shows chronically disrupted sleep can trigger heart disease and dementia, and that sleeping less than six hours a night increases heart attack risk by 20%.

Tossing and turning at night is more than just annoying. Poor sleep triggers cardiovascular issues by plugging arteries with dangerous plaque, and causing them to stiffen.

“Poor sleep can alter the regulation of hormones, it can cause increased inflammation.” said Dr. Kelsie Full, a behavioral epidemiologist and assistant professor in the division of epidemiology within the department of medicine at Vanderbilt University’s memory and Alzheimer’s center.

This causes fatty plaque buildup in arteries that can cause stroke. Simultaneously, blood pressure soars, oxygen goes down, and the body is prevented from cleansing and repairing itself.

“For the brain, sleep is the time when the brain is flushed of harmful toxins that can contribute to Alzheimer’s and dementia,” said Full.

The key to making this happen is getting good quality, consistent sleep, but many people suffer with irregular sleep patterns.

“In our large sample, we found that approximately 40% of adults had irregular sleep patterns, and their sleep was varying across the week by about 90 minutes or more. And this is really important because sleep regularity is something that we can potentially target. We can try to have more consistent bedtimes, we can try to wake up at about the same time,” said Full.

Dr. Full suggests effective sleep hygiene by minimizing light, lowering the thermostat and avoiding caffeine and stress. Finally, keep a sleep journal for 10 days. If you realize you’re short on sleep, see your doctor.

Sleep requirements vary by age, with infants needing 12 to 16 hours, and older adults only requiring seven, but an estimated 83,600,000 Americans sleep fewer than that. Factors like obesity, chronic illness, and location, can impact sleep.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.