It’s official: Getting a good night’s sleep could save your life.

Sleep is good for the heart as well as the mind, say researchers, and to get seven or more hour’s sleep each night boosts the benefits to the heart of a healthy lifestyle.

The results were conclusive. According to a large and recent European research study into cardiovascular problems, all the traditional advice on exercise, diet, drinking and smoking contributed greatly to the reduction in deaths from heart disease or stroke, but even more lives were saved by also having enough undisturbed sleep – and the elimination of snoring is always regarded as a key stepping stone in this process.

The overwhelmingly strong message from these leading European researchers into Health matters is that seeking sound advice on getting enough sleep could have a substantial impact on public health and make a huge contribution – saving vast amounts of public money on the way.

In theory, many heart and stroke deaths could be prevented or postponed.

The research programme tracked heart disease and strokes in more than 14,000 men and women for more than a decade, and by the end of the study, about 600 individuals on the research panel had suffered heart disease or stroke, and 129 of them had died as a result.

The study found that deaths were much less likely in people who followed all four positive lifestyle recommendations:

  • Taking exercise
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation
  • Not smoking

However this research emphatically establishes that combining a good night’s sleep with these other healthy lifestyle choices can reduce your risk of heart disease considerably.

Observing all four behaviours was associated with a 57% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 67% lower risk of dying from stroke or heart disease, they say.  But when sufficient sleep was added to the equation – combining 7/8 hours good sleep with the other four lifestyle factors, the beneficial effect was amplified considerably – resulting in a 65% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and an 83% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Research studies have previously shown a link between poor sleep and cardiovascular disease, but this is the first time that sleep has been added to the other four healthy lifestyle recommendations, and with outstandingly clear results. This major leap in effectiveness is obviously more easily gained with the elimination of any degree of a snoring problem – the biggest contributor to accepted sleep disorder.

The conclusion:

If all participants adhered to all five healthy lifestyle factors, 36% of composite cardiovascular disease and 57% of fatal cardiovascular disease could theoretically be prevented or postponed.

The expert view:

It is apparent that the public health impact of sufficient sleep, in addition to the traditional healthy lifestyle factors, could be substantial and the benefits of sleep should be considered by public health experts and parents alike.

The main message of the study is that we need to consider sleep as an important factor for health and from a public health point of view we should encourage people to get enough sleep and like all other healthy lifestyle factors this needs to be taught at home.

By John Redfern