Not Getting Enough Sleep Increases Heart Disease Risk: Study

Not getting enough sleep increases the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s and even damages the immune system, according to a study

  • Researchers in New York followed 14 adults who slept eight hours a night
  • They were asked to reduce this by an hour and a half for six weeks in the study.
  • In the end, they found that these adults had more inflammation than before.
  • The scientists warned that this suggested they were at increased risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s and even immune system damage.

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Sleeping just six and a half hours a night increases a person’s risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s and even ages their immune system, a new study finds.

Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York City reduced the normal eight-hour nightly sleep schedule of 14 adults for six weeks and found that each ended up with higher levels of inflammation. They said this increased the risk of chronic diseases and warned that it even caused permanent changes in the DNA of some cells.

Official guidelines say that adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, with a growing body of evidence suggesting that sleeping too much or too little is linked to an increased risk of chronic disease.

Experts not involved in the study said it was the first to reveal why sleep is so important for immune system health.

Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York deprived 14 adults of their normal eight hours of sleep every night for six weeks and found that each had higher levels of inflammation in their bodies (stock image)

Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York deprived 14 adults of their normal eight hours of sleep every night for six weeks and found that each had higher levels of inflammation in their bodies (stock image)

In the newspaper, published Thursday in the Journal of Experimental Medicine — The scientists recruited 14 adults who were around 35 years old and lived in New York City.

For the first six weeks, they each slept for about eight hours a night, and at the end of the period, their blood was tested for immune cells.

They were then each asked to cut an hour and a half off their sleep for the next six weeks. The participants then underwent a second blood test.

The results showed that there were more immune cells in the blood after sleep deprivation, suggesting higher levels of inflammation.

They also observed that among stem cells that produced immune cells, the way their DNA was expressed changed, leading them to warn of a loss of diversity in the system, a hallmark of aging.

How much should I sleep per night?

The amount of sleep you need each night depends on your age.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that newborns need the most, up to 17 hours a day, but this gradually decreases as a person ages.

They say that children in school should have nine to 12 hours a night, and teenagers need eight to ten hours.

For adults, on the other hand, they recommend seven to nine hours.

This is then reduced to seven or eight hours from the age of 65.

The risks of not getting enough sleep include:

  • More prone to heart disease;
  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes;
  • More likely to be obese;
  • Difficulty concentrating in school;
  • Greater probability of accidents.

Font: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Tests after sleep patterns returned to normal showed that immune cell levels also decreased, but the DNA appeared to have been permanently ‘changed’.

Dr. Filip Swirski, a cardiovascular expert involved in the study, told NBC News: “The key message from this study is that sleep reduces inflammation and sleep deprivation increases inflammation.”

“In subjects who had undergone sleep restriction, the number of immune cells circulating in the blood was higher. These cells are key players in inflammation.’

He added that too much inflammation has been linked to heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

On the change in the DNA of immune stem cells, he said this was equivalent to ‘accelerating’ aging because it was reducing the diversity in them.

The study was small, with just 14 people, which means more research is needed to support its findings.

Dr. Stephen Chan, a heart expert at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said this is the first article to show why sleep may be so important to the immune system.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Children and adolescents need much more.

Not getting enough has been linked to a higher chance of many diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

It can also affect concentration, leading to poor learning in school or increasing the risk of accidents while traveling or working.

But a growing body of evidence also suggests that sleeping too much could be harmful and also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s.

In a paper published earlier this week, researchers in China warned that people over the age of 60 who sleep more than eight hours are more likely to develop dementia.

Experts said sleeping longer was a key indicator someone might have the disease and should be monitored.

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