New Study: Link Between Sleep Loss and Cardiovascular Disease, Sleep Apnea
There have been many studies in recent years showing the effects that poor sleep has on our health and well being, including increased stress levels, and a negative immune system response.
In a new study from the University of Birmingham, UK, researchers wanted to determine the effects of partial sleep deprivation on blood vessel (vascular) function and breathing control.
The research team, led by Keith Pugh, Shahrad Taheri, and George Balanos, studied eight healthy adult volunteers between the ages of 20 and 35. For the first two nights of the study, the researchers had the volunteers sleep a full eight hours. Then, for the next three nights, the researchers reduced their sleep to only four hours per night.
The researchers then tested the volunteers to see how their blood vessels, or vascular function, reacted to a full night’s sleep, versus a night of sleep cut in half.
To test the effects of sleep on breathing, the researchers exposed the participants to moderately high levels of carbon dioxide, which normally increases the depth and rate of breathing.
The researchers later had the volunteers sleep 10 hours a night for five nights, then ran the same blood vessel/vascular and breathing tests.
Results of the tests
The researchers presented the results of the study in April at the Experimental Biology 2013 meeting last April at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in Boston, MA.
Following the first two nights of restricted sleep, the researchers found a significant reduction in blood vessel/vascular function, compared to the nights of full and normal sleep.
Interestingly, after the third night of reduced sleep, blood vessel/ vascular function returned to baseline—a number representing a normal background level. However, breathing control was substantially reduced after the volunteers lost sleep.
After the volunteers slept 10 hours a night for five nights, the results showed that vascular function and breathing control had improved.
According to researcher Pugh, the results could shed light on the link between sleep loss and cardiovascular disease. “If acute sleep loss occurs repetitively over a long period of time, then vascular health could be compromised further and eventually mediate the development of cardiovascular disease.”
Pugh and his colleagues plan to continue studying these effects in more subjects to strengthen their results, and they hope to discover a mechanism to explain why restricting sleep harms vascular function and breathing control.
Read the American Physiological Society press release, “Cutting Back on Sleep Harms Blood Vessel Function and Breathing Control.”
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