If there’s one health-related advice that doctors and parents always give, it’s maintaining good sleep habits. Research has shown that it’s not just about getting eight hours of sleep every day but also about sleep quality and timing. Now, a new study found an association between people’s circadian rhythm—the sleep-wake patterns that occur every 24 hours—and heart health.
The study, led by researchers from the University of Gothenburg, revealed artery calcification is almost twice as common in night owls compared to early birds. Artery calcification involves fatty deposits accumulating on the inside of the arteries, making it harder for blood to pass through, the university’s press statement explains. As it develops over a long period of time, this disease often goes unnoticed until it leads to angina, blood clots, heart attack, or stroke.
This study involved 771 men and women aged between 50 and 64. The degree of artery calcification in their heart’s coronary arteries was examined using computer tomography. Among them, 144 were extreme morning types, and 128 as extreme evening types. In the former group, 22.2% had pronounced artery calcification while the extreme evening type group had the highest incidence of severe coronary artery calcification, at 40.6%, the statement revealed.
“Our results indicate that the extreme evening chronotype may be linked not only to poorer cardiovascular health in general but also more specifically to coronary artery calcification and to the process that leads to artery calcification,” first author Mio Kobayashi Frisk said in the statement. The findings were published in the journal Sleep Medicine.
Study author Ding Zou concurred and added that the researchers have interpreted results as indicating that circadian rhythm is more significant early in the disease process. Hence, Zou suggested that it should therefore be considered in the preventive treatment of cardiovascular diseases.
Previous studies have also shown how significantly sleep habits impact well-being. For instance, a study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine in September found that people with later sleep and wake times might be at higher risk of developing the disease. It also revealed that people who are awake till late in the night are more likely to drink alcohol in higher quantities, have a low-quality food diet, and get fewer hours of sleep every night.