Irregular sleep patterns may be harmful to your heart

Research we're watching

Published: June, 2020

Having a regular bedtime isn't just good for kids; it may also benefit the health of older adults. A study published online March 2 by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that older adults with an irregular sleep schedule had nearly double the risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared with those who had a regular sleep schedule.

Researchers selected nearly 2,000 men and women, ages 45 to 84, who did not have cardiovascular disease. At the outset of the study, all participants underwent a sleep examination that included a questionnaire, an at-home overnight sleep test, and seven days of monitoring with a device worn on the wrist that tracked sleep patterns. Over the following five years, the participants with the most irregular sleep patterns had more than twice the rate of heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular disease compared with those who had the most regular sleep patterns. The increased risk of experiencing one of these events persisted in the irregular sleepers even after study authors adjusted for cardiovascular risk factors, average sleep duration, and other sleep problems, such as obstructive sleep apnea.

Future research will aim to identify the specific biological changes that occur with irregular sleep schedules that may explain these findings.

Image: © olha potysieva/Getty Images

Disclaimer:
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.