Restricting Sleep During the Week Negatively Affects Cardiovascular Health
New research led by Penn State reveals that insufficient sleep during the week and attempting to catch up on sleep over the weekend is not enough to normalize cardiovascular health measures, such as heart rate and blood pressure. The study, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, demonstrates a potential mechanism for the long-term relationship between lack of sleep and cardiovascular disease.
The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Cardiovascular Health
According to Anne-Marie Chang, associate professor of biobehavioral health and co-author of the study, only 65% of adults in the U.S. regularly achieve the recommended seven hours of sleep per night. This lack of sleep has been associated with cardiovascular disease in the long term. The study suggests that successive nights of restricted sleep could make the heart more prone to cardiovascular issues later in life.
An Inpatient Sleep Study
The research team recruited 15 healthy men between the ages of 20 and 35 to participate in an 11-day inpatient sleep study. The participants were initially allowed to sleep up to 10 hours per night for the first three nights to establish a baseline sleep level. They were then restricted to five hours of sleep per night for the next five nights. This was followed by two recovery nights, during which they were again allowed to sleep up to 10 hours per night. To evaluate the effects of this sleep schedule on cardiovascular health, the researchers regularly measured the participants’ resting heart rates and blood pressure throughout the day.
Unique Study Design
What sets this study apart is its frequent measurement of heart rate and blood pressure throughout the day for the duration of the study. This allowed the researchers to account for any variations caused by the time of day. Taking measurements at multiple points throughout the day compensates for natural fluctuations, such as a lower heart rate in the morning compared to later in the day.
Worsening Cardiovascular Health Over Time
The findings of the study revealed that heart rate increased nearly one beat per minute (BPM) with each successive day of restricted sleep. On average, the baseline heart rate was 69 BPM, while by the end of the study during the second day of recovery, it had increased to almost 78 BPM. The participants’ systolic blood pressure also increased by approximately 0.5 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) per day. The average baseline systolic blood pressure was 116 mmHg, and it rose to nearly 119.5 mmHg by the end of the recovery period.
No Full Recovery Despite Weekend Rest
The study found that both heart rate and systolic blood pressure increased each day and did not return to baseline levels by the end of the recovery period. Even with additional rest over the weekend, the participants’ cardiovascular systems did not fully recover.
Importance of Longer Sleep Recovery
The study suggests that longer periods of sleep recovery may be necessary to fully recover from consecutive nights of sleep loss. It highlights the complex relationship between sleep and cardiovascular health.
Sleep’s Impact on Overall Health
Chang emphasizes that sleep is not only a biological process but also a behavioral one that we have control over. In addition to cardiovascular health, sleep also affects weight, mental health, focus, and healthy relationships. The study hopes to bring attention to the importance of sleep in improving overall health.
The research led by Penn State reveals that insufficient sleep during the week can negatively impact cardiovascular health measures. Attempting to compensate for sleep deprivation by catching up on sleep over the weekend is found to be insufficient in returning these measures to normal. The study highlights the potential long-term consequences of a lack of sleep on heart health and the necessity of longer sleep recovery. Sleep is not only crucial for cardiovascular health but also impacts various aspects of our overall well-being.
Authors and Contributors
The paper was authored by Anne-Marie Chang, associate professor of biobehavioral health, and co-authored by David Reichenberger, Stephen Strayer, Margeaux Schade, and Orfeu Buxton from Penn State. It also included Kelly Ness from the University of Washington, and Gina Marie Mathew from Stony Brook University.