Less than 6 hours of sleep can hurt blood vessels

If our patients are not getting enough sleep, it can lead to health problems. According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, there is a potential link between getting 6 hours of sleep a night and atherosclerotic lesions–the buildup of cholesterol in the wall of your blood vessel–in different blood vessels of the body.

This buildup can keep growing larger, progressively narrowing the vessel. Picture reducing a four lane highway to three, two, one or even no lanes. That is what happens to blood vessels when patients get 6 hours of sleep or less a night.

What happens to the blood vessel?

When the blood vessel gets too narrow, it can no longer provide enough blood and oxygen to whatever parts of the body depend on the blood vessel. This might be your heart, your brain, your kidney or any other part of your body. Plaque can also break off and travel through your bloodstream, which can continue to cause further harm to your health and well-being.

There is a growing body of evidence that less and worse sleep could increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. When you sleep, that is the time for your body to heal and restore itself, which can include fixing the damage in your blood vessel walls.

How this factors in with sleep

The researchers used statistical analysis to determine if there was an association between sleep length or quality, and the presence of atherosclerotic lesions. The results were not good for those individuals who only sleep for a short period of time.

For those who got less than six hours of sleep a night were 27 percent more likely to have atherosclerotic lesions in various arteries than those who got seven to eight hours of sleep a night. The 20 percent with the worst quality of sleep were those who woke up the most and had the most movement in their sleep. These individuals were 34 percent more likely to have atherosclerosis compared to others who got better sleep.

It is important that we help our patients get a better night’s sleep to ensure their overall health and well-being.

Does treating sleep apnea improve diabetes management?

Managing diabetes requires a “day-in, day-out” effort to control the factors that affect blood sugar levels. And what might make it even more difficult to manage symptoms is if you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. A study conducted by a team of scientists, including two professors at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is working as part of a multi-center project sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

The team of researchers looked to assess what impact treating obstructive sleep apnea has on diabetes self-management. Let’s take a look at what impact treating OSA has on diabetes self-management for our patients.

What is the connection?

OSA is a common disease that is linked to a range of problems in patients with diabetes and those who do not suffer from this condition. From poor work performance to heart failure, sleep apnea is the reason behind many health conditions. It can even make patients with diabetes less sensitive to their insulin.

In a recent study, researchers split patients in half. One half used a CPAP machine to treat their sleep apnea, while the other half used a mock CPAP machine that looks and feels like a regular machine, but does not impart any of its benefits. Throughout the study patients also underwent periodic blood sugar checks.

While the study has not concluded yet, researchers are hopeful that treatment of sleep apnea will help improve diabetes self-management in their patients. If the study does show that using CPAP machines improves blood sugar control in patients with diabetes and sleep apnea, there will be no reason why we should not screen more of our patients with diabetes for OSA.

If a patient has been diagnosed with sleep apnea, physicians can persuade them to use CPAP machines regularly. This can work with oral appliances too. Patients with diabetes struggle so much with their sugar levels. This study can provide some relief knowing there is another option to help improve their health.

I know this study doesn’t focus on oral appliances. But should look to oral appliance therapy as a safe alternative to CPAP for our patients.