Why Poor Sleep Is Bad For Your Heart & Nutrition

People lose more than just their daily dose of energy when they sleep poorly. Two recently-published studies found that poor sleeping habits could negatively affect a person's heart and nutrition.

Tobacco Smoking

In an extensive study posted on the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, a team of scientists from the University of Arizona, University of Delaware, University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University found that people who sleep less than six hours a night are 45 percent more likely to smoke tobacco than 8-hour sleepers.

Tobacco smoking is usually associated to respiratory problems, but it also causes harm to the heart and blood vessels. Constant exposure to tobacco smoke can ultimately lead to chest pains and increases the smokers risk for heart attack.

"We really wanted to understand the relationship between sleep and the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease," public health expert and the study's co-author Freda Patterson told Huffington Post. "We found that people who did not get adequate sleep - those who did not get the recommended seven to eight hours - tended not to engage in heart healthy behaviors."

Higher Cholesterol Levels

The second study, published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information, claimed that people who lacked sleep tend to have higher cholesterol levels than those who sleep seven to eight hours a night. Vilma Aho, a sleep specialist at the University of Helsinki Tarja Porkka-Heiskanen lab, said molecules that help regulate cholesterol in the body are less active in people who sleep less than 6 hours a night.

Aho and her research team analyzed data from 2,739 individuals who answered a comprehensive questionnaire about their sleeping habits. The respondents also agreed to give a sample of their blood so that researchers can determine their cholesterol levels.

People who regularly lacked sleep had 10 percent fewer lipoproteins or good cholesterol in their system compared to well-rested individuals. Aho argued that the 10 percent difference isn't a cause for concern to most people.

However, it could prove to be life-changing for some individuals. This is especially true for those who engage in several other unhealthy behaviors on top of not having enough sleep.

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