If you regularly stay up to catch the late show with the host of your choice, or watch the end of a favorite classic movie, you might be more than a bit drowsy the next day, you might also be putting yourself at risk of atherosclerosis (plaque build up on the insides of the arteries).
“There have been many studies about the relationship between sleep – mainly sleep duration – and occurrence of disease, but it remains unclear how bedtime affects cardiovascular risk factors and arterial stiffness, which is the first indication of hardening of the arteries,” suggested Yu Misao, MD, PhD, the study author.
Could the late bedtimes be affecting the health of your heart?
Misao and colleagues set out to answer just this question by testing 251 healthy men all under 60-years of age.
The participants had an annual check-up where their blood pressure, weight, waist circumference, body mass index (BMI) and lipid levels were all measured and recorded.
Brachial ankle pulse wave velocity was used to check for evidence of any arterial stiffening, and any connection with sleeping habits.
Six hours, 20 minutes sleep a night was the average, and most of the subjects declared that they went bed at 11:30 pm.
The study discovered that the less hours the subject slept, the higher his blood pressure, triglyceride levels and blood cholesterol were.
“This is consistent with previous reports showing that short sleep duration may negatively affect cardiovascular risk factors,” Misao explains.
But, the amount that a subjects slept appeared to have no bearing on arterial stiffness.
What the researchers did next was to split the men into three groups according to how many hours they slept at night – less than 6, 6-7 or 7+ hours.
In each group, the subjects who went to bed before midnight had the more relaxed arteries, as compared to men who went to bed after 12:00.
No one knows why this might be, though Misao speculates that being up later allows for more snacking, (and other unhealthy behaviors for the heart) leading to obesity, a known risk factor for heart disease.
Another potential theory is that going to bed after midnight might kick start the sympathetic nervous system – known to increase the body’s functions like heart rate as well as how the body reacts to stress.
Maybe burning the midnight oil could be throwing the internal clock off and cause problems in ways we don’t understand.
Staying up late might help us relax after a demanding day, it may also put an unnecessary strain on your arteries, your heart and perhaps your whole cardiovascular system.
Other research has connected sleep loss with serious conditions like diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
You don’t need a doctor to tell you that getting the right amount of rest helps you function at your best, makes you better able to mange stress and keeps your body rested and ready to handle physical challenges or fight off illness.
And while this doesn’t mean you have to change your sleeping schedule it if works for you, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of the potential link between later bedtimes and heart health.
Practising good sleep habits, including establishing a routine and restful place to sleep are all-important steps to helping you get the rest your body needs.
You might also want to focus your energy on what experts already know will help to minimize your risk for artery problems, like eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising most days of the week – which will all help your sleep routine.