Link Between Lack of Sleep and Heart Health

A new study through the University of Boulder examined why people who do not get enough sleep are often at a greater risk of stroke and heart attack. According to the authors, their findings could potentially lead to new, noninvasive tests for sleep deprived patients.

The American Heart Association recommends that patients get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night; however, approximately 40% of adults in the United States do not fall under this range. According to the press release, the average American’s sleep duration has plummeted from 9 hours to 6.8 hours nightly over the past century.

In the study, the first to explore the impact of insufficient sleep on circulating microRNA signatures, investigators took blood samples from 24 healthy men and women, age 44 to 62 years, who had filled out questionnaires about their sleep habits. Approximately half slept 5 to 6.8 hours nightly.

They then measured the expression of 9 microRNAs previously associated with inflammation, immune function, or vascular health, and found that people with insufficient sleep had 40 to 60% lower circulating levels of 3 physiological regulators, or microRNAs—miR-125A, miR-126, and miR-146a—than those who slept.

These small molecules suppress gene expression of certain proteins in cells, and influence gene expression and play a key role in maintaining vascular health.

This follows another recent study, which found that adult men who sleep less than 6 hours per night have dysfunctional endothelial cells—the cells that line blood vessel—and that their arteries do not dilate and constrict as well as those who get sufficient sleep.

Research is now focused to determine whether restoring healthy sleep habits can restore healthy levels of microRNAs.

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