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People who sleep less than 4 hours a night are twice like to have clogged leg arteries: Study

As a result of changing lifestyle patterns affected by a rapidly developing consumerist society, many people believe that sleep is a luxury and that by reducing sleep, they may maximise their productivity.

However, numerous scientific studies have repeatedly demonstrated that sleep deprivation not only has personal consequences, but can also cause harm on a larger scale through chronic disease, motor vehicle accidents, and occupational mishaps.

Now, a new study led by the researchers of the Stockholm-based Karolinska Institute of Sweden says that sleeping less than five hours a night can raise the risk of developing peripheral artery disease (PAD) compared with seven to eight hours.

The findings of the collaborative research, published in the European Heart Journal-Open, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology recently, revealed that people who were sleeping less than five hours a day were twice like to develop peripheral artery disease (PAD) and those who had PAD  are like to get five hours of sleep at night.

Commenting on the findings, study author Dr Shuai Yuan of the Karolinska Institute said, “Our study suggests that sleeping for seven to eight hours a night is a good habit for lowering the risk of PAD.”

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According to available data, over 200 million people globally have peripheral artery disease (PAD), where arteries in the legs are clogged, restricting blood flow and increasing the risk of stroke and heart attack.

“Insufficient night-time sleep and daytime napping have previously been associated with a raised risk of coronary artery disease, like PAD, is caused by clogged arteries,” Dr Yuan said.

“In addition, sleeping problems are among the top-ranked complaints in PAD patients,” he elaborated.

Pointing out that there are limited data on the impact of sleep habits on PAD and vice versa, Dr Yuan said that their study aimed to fill that gap.

The study included more than 650,000 participants and was conducted in two parts. First, the researchers analysed the associations of sleep duration and daytime napping with the risk of PAD.

In the second part, the investigators used genetic data to perform naturally randomised controlled trials, called Mendelian randomisation, to examine the causality of the associations.

“Observational analyses are limited by reverse causality, meaning that if an association between sleep habits and PAD is found, we cannot be certain if sleep habits caused PAD or having PAD caused the sleep habits,” Dr Yuan said.

“Mendelian randomisation is a robust method for evaluating causality and provides more certainty about the results,” he added.

The study produced the strongest evidence for a short sleep, where the association with PAD went both ways, according to the researchers. In a study of 53,416 adults, sleeping less than five hours each night was linked to a roughly doubled incidence of PAD compared to sleeping seven to eight hours.

The findings were corroborated by additional analyses in 156,582 and 452,028 people, according to the researchers.

Interestingly, the researchers further found during the causal studies that short sleep can increase the risk of PAD and, in addition, PAD can result in an increased likelihood of short sleep.

“The results indicate that brief night-time sleep can raise the chance of developing PAD and that having PAD increases the risk of getting insufficient sleep,” Dr Yuan said.

In an observational analysis of 53,416 adults, sleeping eight hours or more per night was linked with a 24% higher risk of PAD compared with seven to eight hours, which was supported by analyses in two larger populations of 156,582 and 452,028 individuals.

However, the researchers discovered no causal correlations between extended sleep and PAD.

The researchers stated that while their data found that daytime nappers had a 32% higher risk of developing PAD than those who did not nap, they could not discover any causal linkages.

Dr Yuan stated that more research on the links between long nighttime sleep, daytime napping, and PAD is needed, adding, "Although we found associations in the observational studies, we could not confirm causality."

“More research is needed on how to interrupt the bidirectional link between short sleep and PAD. Lifestyle changes that help people get more sleep, such as being physically active, may lower the risk of developing PAD. For patients with PAD, optimising pain management could enable them to have a good night’s sleep,” he concluded.

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