WEDNESDAY, Sept. 21, 2022 (American Heart Association News) — Poor sleep quality — including excessive movement or sleep apnea — may increase the risk of future heart problems, new research suggests.

This problem is called left ventricular diastolic dysfunction, a precursor to heart failure. But not getting enough sleep doesn’t seem to increase the risk, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) – a type of heart failure that occurs when the left side of the heart muscle thickens and cannot pump blood properly to the rest of the body – accounts for 60% of the 37 million cases of heart failure worldwide. “But there is no established method to prevent this,” said lead study author Dr. Hidenori Koyama, a professor at Hyogo Medical University in Nishinomiya, Japan. “Our study shows us the potential importance of sleep quality in its prevention.”

Previous studies have shown that sleep problems, including sleep apnea, are associated with an increased incidence of heart failure. But few studies have examined their relationship with left ventricular diastolic dysfunction.

Researchers analyzed data on the sleep and heart health of 452 adults, who were an average of 59 years old, over a nearly three-year period. They measured sleep apnea, sleep duration, and how much a person moved during sleep — an indicator that sleep was restless.

People with moderate to severe sleep apnea or those who moved around a lot at night — but not those who were sleep deprived — were more likely to develop left ventricular diastolic dysfunction.

Among people with moderate to severe sleep apnea, about 28% later developed left ventricular diastolic dysfunction, compared with about 11% of those without sleep apnea. Among those who moved a lot during sleep, 21% later developed heart disease, compared with 8% of those who moved less.

Much is known about sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder, and how to treat it. Treatment options include continuous positive airway pressure machines, positional sleep therapy, oral appliances worn during sleep, weight loss, and surgery.

But less is known about how to combat excessive movement during sleep. Kayama said many things can cause a person to move during sleep, including restless leg syndrome and lack of deep sleep.

“There is a strong possibility that body movements during sleep represent impairments in sleep quality, such as a deficit in deep sleep time,” Kayama said.

Some ways to improve sleep quality include getting enough exercise during the day and sleeping in a dark environment without exposure to blue light from smartphones and other electronic devices, he said.

Sleep quality is understudied, said Dr. Michael Grandner, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, who was not involved in the new study. Poor sleep quality can be caused by stress, pain or other health problems, he said, but it’s an important factor to consider when studying the link between sleep and overall health.

Grandner co-authored the American Heart Association’s recent presidential recommendation, which added getting enough sleep — seven to nine hours a night for most adults — to a list of key measures for good cardiovascular health, known as Life’s Essential 8. Doctors should regularly ask It’s not just how well their patients sleep, he says, but how well they sleep.

“We cannot ignore the consequences of poor sleep quality, which are different from sleep duration and sleep disturbances,” Grandner said. “This study shows that we need to start thinking about how to improve sleep in different dimensions. Not just getting people to get enough sleep, which is a challenge in itself, but how do we get people to get better quality sleep?”

American Heart Association News covers heart and brain health. Not all views expressed in this story reflect the official position of the American Heart Association. Copyright owned or owned by the American Heart Association, Inc. and all rights reserved. If you have questions or comments about this story, please write editor@heart.org.

Laura Williamson, American Heart Association News

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