Heart Disease and Stroke Directly Linked to Poor Sleep

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Everyone craves a good night’s sleep. It leaves us the next morning feeling refreshed and energized to conquer the day ahead. But for many Americans a solid, uninterrupted 8-hours of shut-eye is a struggle to achieve. The American Sleep Association estimates that 50-70 MILLION US adults have a sleep disorder of some kind — but what is the root cause of poor sleep?

New research presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress states that ischemic heart disease and stroke are connected to poor sleep. “Poor sleep is associated with cardiovascular diseases such as ischaemic heart disease and stroke but the kind of sleep disturbances that are most risky is not well documented,” said lead researcher Dr Nobuo Sasaki, of the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Casualty Council, Japan.  “‘Poor sleep’ includes too short or too long sleep, difficulty falling asleep, and difficulty maintaining sleep.”

Ischaemic heart disease is also known as coronary artery disease and coronary heart disease, and refers to heart problems caused by narrowing of the arteries. When this occurs, less blood and oxygen can circulate, leading to a higher risk of heart attack.

Researchers embarked on an observational study to better understand the link between cardiovascular disease and sleep quality, which involved 12,876 residents of Hiroshima with an average age of 68. Out of that group, 773 had a history of ischaemic heart disease, and 560 had a history of stroke. The participants’ sleep habits were documented using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, that assesses various aspects that affect the quality of sleep.

The results showed different patterns of sleep disturbance depending on each condition. Poor sleep was noted in 52%, 48%, and 37% of patients with ischaemic heart disease, stroke, and no cardiovascular disease, respectively. Dr Sasaki said: “The proportion of people suffering from sleep disturbances is around 1.5-fold higher among patients with previous ischaemic heart disease or stroke compared to those with no history of cardiovascular disease.”

“Interestingly only patients with ischaemic heart disease reported difficulty maintaining sleep and short sleep duration,” he adds.

This connection is paramount to Chinese Medicine, as we don’t treat the symptom (poor sleep) but instead treat the root cause (heart disease). Sleep is considered a necessary pillar in the Chinese model of thriving health, and the first formula to address restless sleep was created around 220 AD. Since then, patterns of physiologic dysfunction which disrupt sleep have been identified and herbal and nutritional therapies developed to ensure proper rest. These ancient and lasting techniques to treat the problem aim to support the function of the heart and liver.

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