‘Disrupted’ Sleep Could Be Seriously Affecting Your Health

By Denise Mann
HealthDay reporter

THURSDAY, April 22, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Waking up briefly throughout the night can do more than make you feel grumpy and tired in the morning.

Disturbed sleep can actually increase your chances of dying prematurely from heart disease or any other cause, and women seem to be hit harder by these effects than men.

“The data underscores all the more reasons why we need to look at people to find out whether they feel refreshed or not and how long they sleep each night,” said Dr Andrea Matsumura, spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. who reviewed the results.

Nighttime excitations are caused by noise, temperature, pain, or pauses in breathing due to sleep apnea. They’re brief and you often don’t know they’re happening unless they’re loud enough to wake you up or point it out to your bed partner. However, when these excitations become frequent, they can be harmful to your health.

For the new study, the researchers analyzed data from sleep monitors worn by participants in three studies. A total of 8,000 men and women were followed for an average of 6 to 11 years.


Women who experienced more nocturnal sleep disturbances over longer periods of time had almost double the risk of dying from heart disease and were also more likely to die prematurely from all other causes, compared to women who slept more. deeply, according to the study.

Men with more frequent nighttime sleep disturbances were about 25% more likely to die prematurely from heart disease than men who slept more soundly, the researchers found.

The triggers for, or the body’s response to, sleep arousal may be different in women and men, said study author Dominik Linz, associate professor of cardiology at the US Medical Center. Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

“Women and men can have different compensatory mechanisms for dealing with the adverse effects of arousal,” Linz said.

It’s unclear exactly how – or even if – disturbed sleep leads to an increased risk of premature death, and the new study was not designed to show causes and effects.


But the authors of an editorial accompanying the results have a few theories.


“Many people with frequent excitement and poor sleep have other risks of heart disease, including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and lung disease,” said editor Dr. Valentin Fuster, director of Mount Sinai Heart in New York.

Anxiety and stress can also rob you of sleep and are known to have negative health effects.

“During short or interrupted sleep, activation of the sympathetic nervous system and inflammation may play a more direct role,” said Fuster.

When activated, the sympathetic nervous system triggers the release of stress hormones that can increase heart rate and blood pressure, which can increase your risk for heart disease over time.

Linz said the best way to improve sleep and reduce nighttime disturbances is to eliminate all triggers for arousal.

Consider sound devices to filter out noise and make sure the temperature in your room is comfortable. If you’re overweight or have sleep apnea, treating them can help prevent “unconscious waking” episodes, Linz said.


Fuster came up with other strategies that can add years to your life: reducing stress through relaxation techniques, like yoga, and making sure your heart disease risks are under control.

The new study had some limitations. He ignored the use of drugs that can affect sleep. Monitoring took place on a single night, while sleep monitoring readings tend to fluctuate from night to night. Also, most of the participants were Caucasian and older, so the results may not be valid in different populations.

The study and editorial were published on April 20 in the European Heart Journal.

The new findings should serve as a wake-up call, said Matsumura, who is also a sleep doctor at the Oregon Clinic in Portland.

“When people don’t feel well and wake up feeling refreshed, many don’t realize they need to be evaluated by a sleep specialist,” she said.

Taking steps to improve the quality of sleep is also important, Matsumura added.

“Consider developing a nighttime routine that evokes calm and relaxation, which can include reading, journaling or meditating,” she suggested. “Limit noise and distractions by making your bedroom quiet, dark, and a little cool – and only use the bed for sleeping, not watching TV or reading.”


Limiting alcohol, caffeine, and large meals before bed will also help you sleep better, Matsumura said.

More information

Learn more about healthy sleep habits at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

SOURCES: Dominik Linz, PhD, associate professor, cardiology, Maastricht University Medical Center, Maastricht, The Netherlands; Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD, director, Mount Sinai Heart, and chief medical officer, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City; Andrea Matsumura, MS, MD, sleep physician, Oregon Clinic, Portland; European Heart Journal, April 20, 2021

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