Number of potentially fatal heart attacks drops by roughly 20 per cent after the clocks go back, study shows
- In the two to three days immediately after the autumn time switch, the number of potentially fatal heart attacks drops by roughly 20 per cent, study showed
- When the clocks jump forward in spring, heart attack rates jump 25 per cent
- Last year a study of 460,000 Britons found even those without family history of heart disease dramatically increased risk of a heart attack by sacrificing sleep
An extra hour in bed isn’t the only benefit of the clocks going back this weekend. Those additional 60 minutes sleep could, in fact, have a profound impact on your health.
If you’re one of the seven million Britons with heart disease, it could prove life-saving. A recent study by University of Colorado scientists showed that in the two to three days immediately after the autumn time switch, the number of potentially fatal heart attacks drops by roughly 20 per cent.
And when the clocks jump forward an hour in the spring, heart attack rates jump 25 per cent almost immediately.
Why? It’s all to do with the power of sleep.
‘Most of us can get away with a few late nights but any more than that and you start running up a sleep debt,’ says Dr Neil Stanley, a member of the British Sleep Society and author of the book How To Sleep Well.
An extra hour in bed isn’t the only benefit of the clocks going back this weekend (stock image)
‘If you are repeatedly deprived of your full quota of sleep – seven to eight hours a night for most of us – for more than about four weeks, it can become a chronic condition that could threaten your health.’
Growing evidence shows the greatest toll is on your heart.
Last year, a study of 460,000 Britons found that even those without family history of heart disease, who were perfectly fit and healthy, dramatically increased their risk of a heart attack by sacrificing sleep.
Those averaging fewer than six hours a night were a fifth more likely to have a heart attack than those getting seven or eight hours. If they slept five hours or fewer, the risks increased by more than 50 per cent.
Professor Melvin Lobo, a heart disease specialist at Bart’s NHS Health Trust in London, adds: ‘It’s not just the time you spend in bed – it’s the quality of the sleep that counts.’
According to experts, poor sleep can trigger a cocktail of other common problems, causing the risk of heart attack to soar. ‘Being exhausted during the day and awake at night can raise levels of hormones that drive up blood pressure,’ says Professor Naveed Sattar, from Glasgow University’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences.
Sleep deprivation also upsets the balance of vital hormones in the body that control appetite.
Studies show that eating late at night – up to two hours before bed – upsets the internal body clock, or circadian rhythm, which, in turn, disrupts our metabolism. The body is less efficient at processing food for energy, causing spikes in blood sugar and blood pressure. Both of these are known risk factors for heart attacks.
Sleep deprivation also upsets the balance of vital hormones in the body that control appetite (stock image)
Too little sleep can also harden your arteries. Sleeping six hours nightly was shown, in studies by University of Chicago researchers, to make participants three times more likely to develop fatty deposits in the blood vessels over a five-year period, compared to those who consistently slept for at least eight hours.
But a daytime snooze won’t help matters. According to recent Chinese research, catching up with shut-eye during the day won’t undo the damage caused by restless nights.
Further research published in the journal Current Biology in February this year showed that a weekend lie-in is unlikely to help, either.
Ultimately, the best defence against sleep-related health problems is simple: a few early nights. Studies consistently show that being early to bed not only protects you from heart disease, but also respiratory illness, psychological disorders and even – according to some studies – early death. So, consider setting a bedtime. Your heart – and overall health – will be better off.
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