Weekend Sleep Warriors

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It takes more than two days to recover from a week of poor sleep, according to research.

Sleep Duration and Cardiovascular Health. Getting enough sleep for your heart.

Sleeping Less Than Five Hours: A Risk to Heart Health

People may stay up late forwork or play during the week and assume they can make up for lost sleep on the weekends. 

But a new study led by Penn State researchers finds that heart rate and blood pressure get worse when people sleep less than five hours a night and don’t return to normal when they sleep longer on weekends. 

Lack of Sleep and Cardiovascular Disease

“Only 65% of adults in the U.S. regularly sleep the recommended seven hours per night, and there’s a lot of evidence suggesting that this lack of sleep is associated with cardiovascular disease in the long term,” said Anne-Marie Chang, associate professor of biobehavioral health and co-author of the work, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine. “Enough successive hits to your cardiovascular health while you’re young could make your heart more prone to cardiovascular disease in the future.”

The Study: Sleep Deprivation and Cardiovascular Effects

Fifteen healthy men between the ages of 20 and 35 participated in an 11-day inpatient sleep study. For the first three nights, the participants slept up to 10 hours per night to achieve a baseline sleep level. For the next five nights, they slept only five hours a night, followed by two recovery nights.

Long-Term Impact on Heart Health

“Both heart rate and systolic blood pressure increased with each successive day and did not return to baseline levels by the end of the recovery period,” said David Reichenberger, lead author and graduate student in biobehavioral health. “So, despite having additional opportunity to rest, by the end of the weekend of the study, their cardiovascular systems still had not recovered.”

Chang noted that longer periods of sleep recovery may be necessary to recover from multiple, consecutive nights of sleep loss.

Sleep’s Wider Impact on Health

“Sleep is a biological process, but it’s also a behavioral one and one that we often have a lot of control over,” Chang said. “Not only does sleep affect our cardiovascular health, but it also affects our weight, our mental health, our ability to focus and our ability to maintain healthy relationships with others, among many other things. As we learn more and more about the importance of sleep, and how it impacts everything in our lives, my hope is that it will become more of a focus for improving one’s health.”