Researchers have revealed through a study that there could be a link between sleep disorders and risk of heart attack and stroke – an association which they say calls for addition of sleep as a risk factor to recommendations for preventing cardiovascular disease.
The revelations come in the form of a talk at the EuroHeartCare 2015 – the official annual meeting of the Council on Cardiovascular Nursing and Allied Professions (CCNAP) of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) – wherein researchers said that currently we are seeing an epidemic of cardiovascular disease with the disease accounting for nearly 50 per cent of the total mortality among the population and 80 per cent of deaths from cardiovascular disease are due to myocardial infarction (heart attack) and stroke.
It has already been established, researchers said, that sleep disorders are very closely related to the presence of cardiovascular diseases, but there has been no population based cohort study examining the impact of sleep disorders on the development of a heart attack or stroke.
Part of the World Health Organization (WHO) programme “MONICA” (Multinational Monitoring of trends and determinants in Cardiovascular disease) and the “MONICA-psychosocial” substudy, the research presented at the EuroHeartCare 2015 investigated the relationship between sleep disturbances and the risk of developing a heart attack or stroke in the long-term.
The study included a representative sample of 657 men aged 25 to 64 years with no history of heart attack, stroke or diabetes in Novosibirsk, Russia. Sleep quality was assessed when the study began in 1994 using the Jenkins Sleep Scale. Very bad, bad or poor ratings were considered a sleeping disorder. Cases of myocardial infarction and stroke were recorded over the next 14 years.
During the study period, nearly two-thirds (63%) of participants who had a heart attack also had a sleeping disorder. Sleeping disorders are closely associated with negative affective states (anxiety, depression, hostility, vital exhaustion). They are connected with the social gradient and are a manifestation of social stress in the population.
Men with a sleeping disorder had a risk of myocardial infarction that was 2 to 2.6 times higher and a stroke risk that was 1.5 to 4 times higher than those without a sleeping disorder between 5 and 14 years of follow up.
Professor Gafarov said: “Sleeping disorders were associated with greatly increased incidences of both heart attack and stroke. We also found that the rates of heart attack and stroke in men with sleeping disorders were related to the social gradient, with the highest incidences in those who were widowed or divorced, had not finished secondary school, and were engaged in medium to heavy manual labour.”
He added: “Sleep is not a trivial issue. In our study it was associated with double the risk of a heart attack and up to four times the risk of stroke. Poor sleep should be considered a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease along with smoking, lack of exercise and poor diet. Guidelines should add sleep as a risk factor to recommendations for preventing cardiovascular disease.”
Professor Gafarov continued: “For most people, good quality sleep is 7 to 8 hours of rest each night. People who are not sleeping well should speak to their doctor. Our previous research showed that sleeping disorders are very closely connected with depression, anxiety and hostility, so speaking with a psychologist may also help.”