Irregular Sleep: A Health Hazard

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Older adults with irregular sleep patterns — meaning they have no regular bedtime and wake-up schedule, or they get different amounts of sleep each night — are nearly twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease as those with more regular sleep patterns, according to a new study funded in part by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, based in Bethesda, Maryland.

The five-year study suggests that an irregular sleep pattern may be a novel and independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and that maintaining regular sleep patterns could help prevent heart disease just as physical activity, a healthy diet and other lifestyle measures do, the researchers say.

“We hope that our study will help raise awareness about the potential importance of a regular sleep pattern in improving heart health. It is a new frontier in sleep medicine,” says lead study author Tianyi Huang, an epidemiologist with the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Findings from the prospective study — the first believed to link sleep irregularity to the development of cardiovascular disease — were published online on March 2 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.