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Articles October 2013 Issue

A Good Night’s Sleep Boosts Your Healthy Diet and Lifestyle

Getting a good night’s sleep is good for more than just feeling perkier the next morning. Studies have shown that adequate sleep contributes to healthier blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. On the other hand, people who fall short in sleep hours are more likely to be overweight or obese and to be diagnosed with hypertension.

Getting at least seven hours of sleep a night may reduce your heart risk. (Image © Thinkstock)

Now a new study finds that getting more than seven hours of sleep a night is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease and death. Moreover, getting a good night’s sleep appeared to add to the health benefits of more conventional lifestyle factors such as eating right, exercising, limiting alcohol intake and not smoking.

“It is difficult to parse out what benefits are derived from each individual component or whether getting adequate amounts of sleep is just part of an overall healthy lifestyle,” says Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, director of Tufts’ HNRCA Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory. “The important thing is to program adequate time for sleep into habitual lifestyle patterns, not just on weekends.”

STUDY DETAILS: In the new research, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, Dutch scientists looked at 12 years of data on more than 14,000 participants in the Monitoring Project on Risk Factors for Chronic Disease. Not surprisingly, people who adhered to a healthy diet, exercised, limited alcohol and didn’t smoke were at 57% less risk of cardiovascular disease and 67% less likely to die of cardiovascular disease than those with one or none of those healthy habits. People who averaged more than seven hours of sleep per night were also at lower risk of cardiovascular disease (22%) and death (43%)—regardless of other lifestyle factors.

But when sleep duration was added to the four healthy-lifestyle factors, risk decreased even further. People who got adequate sleep and adhered to all four lifestyle factors were 65% less likely to suffer cardiovascular disease and 83% less likely to die of cardiovascular causes.

The observational study couldn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship between sleep duration and reduced risk. But the findings suggest that sufficient sleep “should now be mentioned as an additional way to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease,” the researchers commented. “It is always important to confirm results, but the evidence is certainly growing that sleep should be added to our list of cardiovascular disease risk factors.”

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