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Sleep Benefits the Heart and Brain

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Not catching enough Zzz’s or having a sleep disorder can affect cardiovascular health and risk, says the first-ever scientific statement about sleep from the American Heart Association.

“Sleep disorders are very much related to cardiovascular disease,” said Marie-Pierre St-Onge, Ph.D., an associate professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University in New York City, who chaired the panel that wrote the statement, released Monday. “How [people] choose to spend their nighttime hours is very important to their health.”

Researchers found that sleep issues, especially not sleeping enough, obstructive sleep apnea, and insomnia can influence the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, coronary heart disease, and overall cardiovascular disease.

More than one in three U.S. adults do not get enough sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Institutes of Health’s National Center on Sleep Disorders Research estimates that sleep disorders, sleep deprivation and sleepiness cost the U.S. healthcare system about $15.9 billion a year.

“It’s fabulous that sleep is getting attention,” said Nancy Collup, M.D., a professor of medicine and neurology and director of the Emory Sleep Center in Atlanta. “Sleep helps to regenerate body tissue and cements the previous day’s memories in the brain,” she said. “But assessing it can be difficult, because of its objective and subjective components.”

“A good night’s sleep allows someone to wake up and go through the next day’s activities without being sleepy or tired,” Dr. Collup said. “If you’re not sleeping well, it can affect your job, interactions with your family, and your overall health.”

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