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Less Sleep Could Lead to Heart Disease, According to Research

Sleeping less than seven and a half hours per day may be associated with potential risk of heart disease for older people.

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The conditions of aging sometimes make a good night's sleep a difficult goal to achieve. If you're an older adult having problems sleeping – or if you're caring for one – why not schedule a doctor's physical and consider extra caregiving companionship.

Q. Ever since my husband died last year, I just don't sleep well. Every little sound wakes me. Sometimes I think that trouble sleeping is just part of being 78 years old and it won't cause me any harm. Is that true? 

Issues such as health and medication can cause seniors to have more problems sleeping. And lack of sleep can begin to take its toll on older adults. Sleeping less than seven and a half hours per day may be associated with potential risk of heart disease for older people, according to a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

In addition, a combination of little sleep and overnight elevated blood pressure appears to be associated with an increased risk of the disease.

Getting adequate sleep is essential to preventing health conditions such as obesity and diabetes as well as several risk factors for cardiovascular disease including sleep-disordered breathing and night-time hypertension (high blood pressure). But the evidence has been growing that changes in modern lifestyle are causing people to get less sleep.

This study monitored the sleep of 1,255 individuals with hypertension (94 percent) and followed them for an average of 50 months. Their average age was 70.4 years with a range of 33 to 97 years; there were 476 men and 779 women.

Researchers noted patients' sleep duration, daytime and nighttime blood pressure and cardiovascular disease events such as stroke, heart attack and sudden cardiac death. During follow-up, 99 cardiovascular disease events occurred. Sleep duration of less than 7.5 hours was associated with incident cardiovascular disease.

Studies such as this point out the need to see a doctor who can determine if there are medications or issues that are making it difficult for you to get a good night's rest. If so, your physician should be able to help.

If you're worried about being alone at night, why not consider hiring a caregiver companion. Home Instead® employs CAREGiversSM who are screened, trained, bonded and insured to provide a variety of services including companionship. Having someone in the house at night could be just what you need to sleep soundly.

For more information about the study visit

Last revised: July 13, 2011

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