Goal of the Study?

In this research paper, published in Cardiovascular Medicine 1, the authors looked to answer whether REM sleep is a factor in heart health in the older population. In other words, did the quantity of Rapid Eye Movement Sleep affect the heart?

Why are they doing this study?

Sleep is critical for overall health and is divided into two general phases: REM Sleep and non-REM sleep. REM sleep, which should constitute about 20-25% of the total sleep, occurs mainly in the latter half of the sleep cycle—namely in the morning hours. Interestingly, during REM sleep the eyes move rapidly, dreaming occurs, heart rate and blood pressure increase, and muscles relax. Despite all these things scientists have figured out, they still don’t know how REM sleep affects the heart directly.

What was done?

Four thousand four hundred ninety participants were recruited for this Sleep Heart Health Study. The mean age was 63.2 yrs old, with 2480 women and 2010 men. Heart failure was recorded during 10.9 years which was identified by rales (small clicking, bubbling, or rattling sounds in the lungs), edema (swelling in the lower extremities), dyspnea (difficulty breathing) and orthopnea (the sensation of breathlessness in the recumbent position, relieved by sitting or standing). Heart failure also included physiological tests and chest imaging and/or functional cardiac imaging. To measure REM sleep, all participants wore an at-home device (Polysomnography) that recorded sleep phases.

What did they find?

Four hundred thirty-six incidences of heart failure were observed during the study period. When total REM sleep time was compared to those that had heart failure and to those that didn’t have heart failure, there was a significantly higher percentage of heart failure in those that experienced less REM sleep.

Why do these findings matter?

If REM sleep is related to heart health exists, which looks to be the case in this great research paper, doing things to encourage a better night’s sleep should be at the top of one’s priority list. To help get started on measuring sleep, many of these wearables today (Fitbit, Garmin, Oura etc.) do a good job helping one get an idea of one’s sleep phases. We are lucky to be living in a time where these things can be tracked. I have learned how to optimize MY sleep with the Oura ring. JF

Things I avoid:

  1. Exercising late…not past 5 pm
  2. eating late…not past 7 pm

Things I do:

  1. Slow the mind down one hour before bed
  2. If I wake up too early, I lay there and try to keep my mind calm
  3. Try to be horizontal for at least 7-8 hrs for spine/disc health
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