I’m going to cover some interesting research on the role of sleep and the risk of heart failure. There’s been a number of studies that look at the role of sleep quality and increased risk of heart failure.
Making small changes to sleep patterns can reduce your risk of heart failure by 42%
The source is GreenMedInfo if you’d like to take a look at it yourself. However, the headline is making small changes to sleep patterns can reduce your risk of heart failure by 42%. The most significant risk changer was reducing daytime napping. If you infrequently nap, or very rarely nap during the day time that reduces your risk by a whopping 34%. However, the other things that seem to reduce the risk were rising early, 8%, sleeping seven to eight hours a night, 12%.
So if you sleep well nearly every night, then that reduces your risk by 17%. Quality of sleep is the vital factor. However, if we look at it around the other way, in a large study of between 400,000 and 500,000 people, sleeping fewer than six hours or more than eight hours increased the risk of heart failure. So if you sleep long or very short, that actually increased your risk of developing or dying from coronary heart disease and stroke. Those that slept more, over 9 hours had a higher total cardiovascular risk. Those who have good sleep habits and nap occasionally reduced the risk of heart disease by 48% in a sample of 3,500 Swiss subjects.
How long do you commonly sleep every night?
So I guess we have to take this in a setting of what’s your quality of sleep normally? And how long do you commonly sleep every night? Those who nap more than an hour had a 30% greater risk of all causes of death. So the nap needs to be about 30 minutes, what my Godmother used to call “just a toes up”. You’re not getting into bed. You’re maybe lying on a chaise or a day bed or on the bed. You are not really having a deep sleep and then waking up exhausted. So, the benefit is in the relaxation and its benefits.
For many, good sleep is particularly elusive. I think there are many reasons for that.
If I’m looking at the data we collect, I’d say that when your heart rate variability is low your adrenal function is over stimulated. Sleep will be difficult. When you are dominantly sympathetic rather than parasympathetic (which is rest, relax, and sleep) then you’re more likely to have poor sleep. That will show up as problems all through the body. Poor sleep has been associated with metabolic, psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders, sleep apnoea, insomnia and dementia.
Restless leg syndrome often disrupts sleep. Poor sleep exacerbates obesity, diabetes, inflammation, depression, Parkinsons and Alzheimers. A long-term study of 9,000 people between ages 32 and 86 found sleeping five or fewer hours was associated with diabetes risk, obesity and high blood sugar.
Interestingly, there’s a difference between men and women.
A study of 2,300 women over 20 years that slept more than 9 hours or less than 5 hours had poorer lipid profiles, cholesterol and blood fat. Men who were long sleepers had high cholesterol yet sleeping less than 5 hours did not effect blood profile. So men get more leeway than women if you are sleeping less than 5 hours. Over an hour of daytime napping was associated with an increase of all cause mortality compared with non-nappers in a review of seven studies involving nearly a 100,000 Chinese participants. Poor sleep has many effects including absenteeism and higher health costs. So the take home message is that we need quality sleep that is in the eight hour range. As individuals there is a range of optimal sleep. Some people I think do okay with less sleep and other people require more sleep. The quality of the sleep I think is as important if not more important than the time in bed.
So, those that don’t sleep well will tend to get less benefit from optimal hours of sleep than those that do sleep deeply. Rapid eye movement and the phases of optimal sleep are highly restorative.
The role of posture and the pillow
Something I am interested in is the role of posture and the pillow. These elements of poor sleep are not covered in these studies. However, my personal experience and that of the client database, the client family, is that a great pillow often makes an immediate and quite significant difference to the quality of sleep. With the head and neck in neutral, being supported properly in bed will have a good impact on sleep. There are some postural and physiologic reasons as to why that might be so. Ideal neck posture will relieve tension on the brain stem, optimise the blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain.
Waking up refreshed after a good sleep is a goal we all share. And that is a good physiological reason to have a great pillow. So I believe that if you don’t own a high quality pillow, it’s a very low cost intervention to increase the quality of your sleep with many health benefits. There is a link here to the Sissel pillow sales page. That’s a high quality Swiss pillow. They are made of non toxic materials, a 5 year shape guarantee, no environmental damage, and an orthopaedic design. This pillow is their flagship product and their number one seller for the last 30 years. So if it was a dud, that’d be off the market by now. They are priced at AU$150, which in terms of premium pillows is actually low to mid price range. Premium pillows are up to AU$250.
I have taken an in depth look at the pillow market and believe that the Sissel pillows are the finest you can buy at the price. The orthopaedic design will give terrific support from the base of the neck to the head. The classic pillow comes in two sizes, a large and a medium. And very importantly, they also produce a children’s pillow. The spinal curves develop as the body grows. There are a number of studies that show that a majority of children under 15 are developing a reverse curve in their neck. The constant use of screens from phones to laptops during school age, has a critical negative effect on the neck curve. Poor neck curve and posture is highly associated with headaches and altered brain function. A good pillow will support ideal neck curves during the critical growth years. Ideal posture will optimise the neurologic and structural development of a growing body.
Sleep deprivation is torture!
Sleep is important. Sleep deprivation is torture as defined in the Geneva Convention. There are many other negative health outcomes as a result of poor or disturbed sleep. There’s very good evidence and good traditional logic that quality sleep is super important for your health. So enjoy the week, enjoy a good night’s sleep. Aim to sleep between seven and eight hours.