Sci­en­tists from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley fig­ured out how sleep dis­or­ders affect the state of blood ves­sels and why sleep prob­lems increase the risk of devel­op­ing heart dis­ease and strokes.Sleep dis­or­ders were record­ed by the authors using the actig­ra­phy method. The sub­jects had to spend sev­er­al nights (a week) with a spe­cial motion detec­tor worn on the wrist. In addi­tion, the researchers ana­lyzed the blood of the par­tic­i­pants in the obser­va­tions. Sci­en­tists were inter­est­ed in the indi­ca­tors of neu­trophils and mono­cytes — two types of leuko­cytes respon­si­ble for the spread of inflam­ma­tion in the body.

It turned out that poor, frag­ment­ed sleep leads to an increase in the lev­el of neu­trophils (but not mono­cytes), as well as an increase in cal­ci­um deposits on the walls of the coro­nary arter­ies. The lat­ter indi­ca­tor indi­cates a grow­ing risk of devel­op­ing ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis. Sta­tis­ti­cal cal­cu­la­tions have shown that the effect of sleep frag­men­ta­tion on coro­nary cal­ci­um is medi­at­ed pre­cise­ly by an increase in the num­ber of neu­trophils. And this rela­tion­ship — worse sleep, more neu­trophils, more cal­ci­um on the walls of the coro­nary arter­ies — remained unchanged even after tak­ing into account many oth­er fac­tors that affect the risks of devel­op­ing car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­eases.

Thus, the researchers con­clude that improved sleep can reduce the extent of inflam­ma­to­ry process­es in the body and there­by reduce the threat to the heart and blood ves­sels.

Inter­est­ing­ly, sci­en­tists have also tried ask­ing sub­jects about the qual­i­ty of their sleep, and it turned out that the data obtained in this way is sub­jec­tive and does not always cor­re­spond to real­i­ty. This sug­gests that ask­ing peo­ple about sleep qual­i­ty is an unre­li­able tool for con­duct­ing research to assess sleep-relat­ed car­dio­vas­cu­lar risk.

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