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A good night’s sleep empowers the body to recover and lets a person wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day. Unfortunately, many people have sleep problems and don’t get the rest they need. Poor sleep can seriously affect a person’s quality of life and increase the risk of developing chronic health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare nearly half (48%) of all Australian adults report at least 2 sleep-related problems.

Poor quality sleep can increase a person’s risk of heart disease and premature death by up to seven years, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Sydney and the University of Southern Denmark.

The study examined data from over 300,000 adults in the UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database and research resource, containing in-depth genetic and health information from half a million UK participants. It found that different types of sleep disturbances can lead to varied spans of compromised heart health. The researchers developed what they called a “composite sleep score” which included information like a person’s sleep duration, whether or not they snored, their daytime sleepiness, insomnia complaints, and whether they were an early bird or night owl, to create three categories: poor, intermediate, and healthy sleep. They compared this to the participants’ overall cardiovascular disease-free health expectancy.

Men and women with sleep-related breathing disorders (such as sleep apnea) on average lost more than seven years of cardiovascular disease-free life. But even general poor sleep was found to typically result in a loss of about two years of normal heart health in men and women. The study showed that women with poor sleep are likely to experience two years more of compromised cardiovascular health compared to healthy sleepers, while men experience more than two years. People who fell into the ‘intermediate’ sleep category lost almost one year of heart disease-free life if they were female, while males lost slightly more.

This research also emphasised that snoring, in conjunction with difficulty sleeping, could be a warning sign of other potential health issues in the future. The authors say it’s essential to prioritise sleep quality to reduce the risk of heart disease and other health problems.

Non-pharmacological therapies

According to there are several non-pharmacological therapies that people can try to improve their sleep quality including:

  • Relaxation therapies
  • Psychological therapy
  • Complementary medicines

For more information including tips to improve sleep habits visit

Useful resource

How Much Sleep Is Enough? Eight hours good, six hours bad? It’s not just down to numbers, says Dr Norman Swan, who prescribes a fresh focus on sleep quality over quantity for life enhancing rest.

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