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World Sleep Day (March 15): Sleep deprivation and CVD

Sleep deprivation is an important public health issue that has received little attention compared to other health risk factors like smoking, heavy alcohol intake, obesity. So says the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Several studies have shown that poor sleep apart from affecting our mood and performance at work has been linked to development of several chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, obesity, heart attack and diabetes mellitus.

The reasons for sleep deprivation in adults, apart from the sleep disorders which can affect anyone, include mostly lifestyle, referring to our work. I was speaking to a client of mine recently who works in the banking sector. I was alarmed when she told me she wakes up at 4am to get ready for work because she has to beat traffic, and she comes back home by 10pm because of her work and to also avoid traffic. So when I pressed her on how long she sleeps. She said probably 4 hours or less, and she does this every working day. She went on to affirm that most of her colleagues does the same thing, and by the way, who sleeps in this city (Lagos), everybody that does white collar job in this city goes through the same ordeal. Well, don’t be surprised if I tell you she is hypertensive.

Sleep is necessary for good health. During sleep, the body repairs itself, removes toxins from the body and grows necessary tissues for survival. There are two major types of sleep, the rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and the non-rapid eye movement sleep (non-REM). We go through several cycles of stages of both type of sleep in order to get a good rest.

Quoting from the CDC, “People who have short sleep duration are at 1.48 times greater risk of developing and dying of coronary heart disease than controls and 1.15 times more likely to have a stroke. Children who experience short sleep duration are more likely to become obese than those who do not”. The reason for this is that poor sleep alters the autonomic nervous system increasing the stress hormone in your body thereby increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. Poor sleep also leads to increase production of inflammatory agents that promotes atherosclerosis in the blood vessels and modulates the immune system. All these are related to heart disease and other chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes mellitus.

The recommended duration of sleep that is good for a healthy lifestyle is 6 to 8hours in a 24hour period. Less than 6hours is not healthy and duration 9hours or more is also associated with ill health. Tips for good sleep includes having a regular sleeping schedule, keeping the bedroom stress free as much as possible with little distraction, dimming the light prior to sleep, avoiding caffeine and alcohol late at night, avoiding late night eating, and if you must eat something late, consider fruits or drinking yogurt.

About Dr Emeka Okocha

Consultant Cardiologist with interest in preventive cardiology

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