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Sleep deprived older women at greater heart disease risk

Women who try to make up for a ‘sleep debt’ may be at greater risk for heart disease later in life than those who do, according to preliminary research.

The study found that women over 60 who had been sleeping more on the weekends to play ‘catch up’ from a week’s worth of short nights were five percent more likely to show signs of heart disease.

Regardless of other risk factors like socioeconomic status and age, the more sleep deprived women were, the more likely they were to be obese and have high blood pressure, according to the presentation given at this year’s annual American Heart Association meeting.

The relationship between short nightly bouts of sleep is well established, but this study was one of few to look at whether or not longer episodes of sleep – in attempts to make up for a sleep debt – indicated similar risks.

Women over 60 who tried to make up for sleep debts on the weekend were at greater risk for signs of heart disease than others, according to a new study 

We know, overall, that the less sleep we get the greater our risk of heart trouble. We also know that the older we get, the fewer hours and poorer quality of sleep we get.

One study found that getting less than six hours of sleep each night doubled the risk of both heart attack and sleep for people over 45 years old, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

During sleep, the heart rate falls from around 60 beats per minute to between 45 to 50 beats per minute.

That lower heart rate helps to keep overall blood pressure lower. Those that don’t get enough sleep are also much more prone to overall inflammation and the build-up of C-reactive protein, which is part of the inflammatory response. There is a very close, predictive link between high levels of the protein and the risk of heart attack.

As people age, we experience a greater number of disturbances throughout the night. The parts of the brain that generate the slow waves of deep sleep deteriorate first and it becomes harder to stay asleep as long.

Women suffer from marginally less sleep deprivation than do men, but have a harder time making up their sleep debts, according to previous research.

One Harvard sleep specialist has recommended that women who miss 10 hours of sleep in one week at three to four additional hours of scheduled sleep into their weekend plans.

The recommendations for a longer-running deficit require a couple of weeks of bigger sleeps.

Half of women between ages 40 and 59 reported waking up feeling like they weren’t well-rested more than half of the week in one study.

Menopause can make sleep even harder to come by for women. Disturbances like hot flashes and hormonal surges can throw off even the most diligent attempts to get the recommend seven to nine hours of sleep.

The new study from researchers at the University of California San Francisco, however, took an additional two hours a night of weekend sleep to mean that professional women between 60 and 84 were sleep deprived.

The study found that even the women trying to make up for lost shut-eye were still significantly less heart-healthy than those who didn’t need the extra weekend snoozes.

Their findings suggest that the attempts to make up for lost sleep contribute to broader ‘weekly sleep duration variation, possibly leading to circadian misalignment,’ which, the authors wrote, ‘might be associated with cardiovascular risk in older women.’