This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
Published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, researchers from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment have found that a good night‘s sleep can increase the health benefits of exercise, proper diet, moderate alcohol consumption and not smoking.
While scientists had previously determined that these lifestyle habits synergistically help to protect against cardiovascular disease (CVD), the study team found that the effect of sufficient sleep on heart-related deaths could be as strong as not smoking.
Lead study author, Dr. Monique Verschuren noted, “It is always important to confirm results… but the evidence is certainly growing that sleep should be added to our list of CVD risk factors.” Lack of quality sleep has been linked to obesity, high blood pressure and other factors directly associated with cardiovascular risk.
Most people understand the importance of getting a good night’s sleep to feel refreshed and alert the next morning, but few understand its implications for overall wellness, health and prevention.
In a large study consisting of 6,672 men and 7,967 women, aged from 20 to 65 years who were free of CVD, the team found that the combination of the four traditional lifestyle factors was linked to a 57 percent lower risk of both fatal and non-fatal CVD, and a 67 percent lower risk of fatal events. When the researchers added sufficient sleep (defined as seven continuous hours, but less than nine hours each night) as a factor, the heart benefit increased further: the risk of composite CVD was 65 percent lower and the risk of fatal events was 83 percent lower.
In an effort to explain the results, the scientists point to prior studies showing that short sleep duration is associated with a higher incidence of overweight, obesity and hypertension leading to higher levels of blood pressure, total cholesterol and triglycerides, consistent with increased cardiovascular disease risk. Combining a quality night’s sleep of more than seven hours with the other identified lifestyle factors (diet, exercise, smoking and alcohol consumption) is a recipe for lowering the risk of death from a heart attack by more than eighty percent, clearly worth the small amount of extra effort.
Experts repeatedly recommend sleeping seven to nine hours each night in a quiet, totally dark environment. These practices stimulate the production of melatonin, which enhances the quality of sleep, and allow the body to perform routine metabolic repair functions necessary to help prevent disease and promote vibrant health.