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Sleeping less than 5 hours a night is a silent killer risk

Sleeping less than 5 hours a night is a  silent killer risk
Published 12 months ago on Mar 16, 2023

Researchers in sweden found missing out on shut-eye increased the chances of developing peripheral artery disease, where blood vessels in the legs become clogged.

The study tracked rates of the disease in 650,000 adults, and compared it to how long they slept each night. 

It found missing out on the recommended seven to nine hours sleep put people at risk of the condition.

Dr Shuai Yuan, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, said: “Sleeping for seven to eight hours a night is a good habit for lowering the risk of peripheral artery disease.”

Around one in five British over-60s suffer the condition, which raises the risk of heart attack ans stroke 

The condition is more common in smokers and people with diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. 

It can cause hair loss on the legs, painful aches when walking, numbness, brittle toenails and ulcers.

Previous research suggests not sleeping enough raises the risk of heart disease, which is also caused by clogged arteries.

Dr Yuan said: “In addition, sleeping problems are among the top ranked complaints in peripheral artery disease patients.”

The latest study, published in European Heart Journal – Open, looked at the impact of sleep habits on the condition.

Researchers compared how much people slept with whether they developed the condition.

They then analysed their genetic data to assess whether sleep was impacting their chances of getting peripheral artery disease or vice versa.

In the first analysis, sleeping less than five hours a night was associated with a nearly doubled risk of the disease compared with seven to eight hours.

Analysing genetic data showed short sleep was associated with an increased risk of the disease and it was also associated with an increased likelihood of short sleep

Dr Yuan said: “More research is needed on how to interrupt the bidirectional link between short sleep and peripheral artery disease. 

“Lifestyle changes that help people get more sleep, such as being physically active, may lower the risk of developing peripheral artery disease. 

“For patients with peripheral artery disease, optimising pain management could enable them to have a good night’s sleep.”

What are the symptoms of peripheral artery disease?

Many people with PAD have no symptoms.

However, some develop a painful ache in their legs when they walk, which usually disappears after a few minutes' rest.

Other symptoms of PAD can include:

  • hair loss on your legs and feet
  • numbness or weakness in the legs
  • brittle, slow-growing toenails
  • ulcers (open sores) on your feet and legs, which do not heal
  • changing skin colour on your legs, such as turning pale or blue
  • shiny skin
  • in men, erectile dysfunction
  • the muscles in your legs shrinking (wasting)

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