A new study from the American Heart Association (AHA) found that adults with the healthiest sleeping habits had fewer heart disease occurrences. In fact, their research revealed that those with consistent quality sleep had a 42% lower risk of heart failure.

Even when they accounted for other risk factors, adults with healthy sleep patterns had better health markers than unhealthy sleepers. The findings have been published in the American Heart Association’s premier journal Circulation.

The AHA defined healthy sleep patterns as rising in the morning and sleeping the recommended 7-8 hours per day. The criteria also included not experiencing frequent insomnia, snoring, or extreme daytime sleepiness.

Unfortunately, heart failure affects around 26 million people worldwide and continues to increase in prevalence. New evidence shows that sleep disruptions may play a role in the development of heart failure.

The American Heart Association study that links lowered heart disease to positive sleeping habits

The AHA study investigated the correlation between healthy sleeping habits and heart failure and compiled data from 408,802 UK Biobank participants. The individuals in the study were between the ages of 37 and 73 when they agreed to participate. Researchers collected data on incidences of heart failure until April 1, 2019. They also recorded 5,221 cases of heart failure during a 10-year follow-up period.

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For the study, the team analyzed sleep quality as well as the participants’ sleeping habits. Measures of sleep quality included time spent sleeping, insomnia, snoring, and whether the individual was an early riser or late sleeper. They also recorded whether the participants had any daytime sleepiness symptoms, such as dozing off or sleeping during the day.

“The healthy sleep score we created was based on the scoring of these five sleep behaviors,” said Lu Qi, M.D., Ph.D., corresponding author, and professor of epidemiology and director of the Obesity Research Center at Tulane University in New Orleans. “Our findings highlight the importance of improving overall sleep patterns to help prevent heart failure.”

Researchers used touchscreen questionnaires to collect data on sleep behaviors. They categorized sleep behaviors into three different groups: short, or less than 7 hours; recommended, or 7-8 hours; or prolonged, or 9+ hours a day.

The research team then adjusted for diabetes, medication use, genetics, hypertension, and other risk factors. They found that adults with healthy sleeping habits had a 42% lower risk of developing heart failure than those with unhealthy sleep patterns.

Other interesting findings from the study included that heart disease occurred:

  • 8% lower in early risers;
  • 12% lower in those who slept 7 to 8 hours daily;
  • 17% lower in those who did not have frequent insomnia; and
  • 34% lower in those reporting no daytime sleepiness.

Participants reported their own sleeping habits, but any changes in sleep patterns at follow-up weren’t available. The researchers said that other unknown or unmeasured factors might have influenced the outcome. However, Qi noted that the study’s strong points included it being the first study of its kind and having a large sample size.

Seven other ways to lower the risk of heart disease/heart failure:

According to the American Heart Association, you can lower your heart failure risk by making lifestyle changes. These include:

1 – Stop smoking.

Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body and can cause damage to the functioning of the heart. Smoking is a major risk factor for atherosclerosis and heart disease.

2 – Eat healthy foods.

Eating a balanced, nutritious diet helps you maintain a healthy weight and lower risk factors for diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Many diseases today can either be reversed or at least managed with a healthy diet. Include plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, lean meats, and dairy in your diet. Limit consumption of processed, sugary, high-fat foods, as well as red meats.

3 – Lower your cholesterol.

Fat lodged in the arteries can trigger a heart attack or stroke. To prevent this from happening, make sure to lower your consumption of saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol. You may need to take medication to lower your cholesterol if diet and exercise alone aren’t helping. Healthy cholesterol levels for adults over 20 are anywhere from 125 mg/dL to 200 mg/dL.

4 – Exercise daily.

Even if you walk around the neighborhood for 30 minutes, something is better than nothing. However, experts say that at least 150 minutes per week of intense aerobic exercise is necessary to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. This will also keep your weight in a healthy range.

5 – Maintain a healthy weight.

Unfortunately, obesity in the U.S. is at an all-time high. This puts you at a higher risk of developing high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and ultimately cardiovascular disease. Make sure to exercise regularly and vigorously, eat a healthy diet, and keep your stress low to control your weight.

6 – Keep your stress low.

Studies have shown that high cortisol levels from long-term stress can increase blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure. These are all factors that can lead to heart failure. Make sure to create time in your schedule for relaxation, meditation, yoga, or something else that eases your stress.

7 – Limit alcohol consumption.

Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of stroke, cancer, and other diseases. It may also cause irregular heartbeats and contribute to the development of diabetes and obesity. If you do drink, limit your consumption to one drink per day.

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Final thoughts on a study showing a link between good sleeping habits and reducing your odds of heart disease

Quality sleep in today’s world may seem hard to come by, but it may just save you from heart disease. The study above confirmed that adults with good sleeping habits have a 42% lower risk of heart failure than poor sleepers. Lack of sleep causes disruptions in your whole body and increases cortisol production. All of this puts a lot of extra strain on your heart.

Make sure you have a regular sleep schedule, turn off technology a few hours before bed, and keep your room cool at night. All of these habits will help you sleep better and wake up feeling more refreshed.