Do you find yourself tossing and turning before, during and after sleep? Does your body momentarily wake up from sleep in response to traffic sounds, noise, light or temperature? Well, you wouldn’t know for sure, but it’s likely you’re feeling it the following day.
Brief intrusions of the above are pretty normal — these instances are called “unconscious wakefulness” or sleep arousal. The problem is when these brief intrusions turn into frequent intrusions — and mess with the circadian rhythm of the cardiovascular system. And this problem can result in well, um, death.
We’re not saying that if you have one terrible night of sleep, that you’re going to die! But what one new study, out of the University of Adelaide, found was that women who experience this “unconscious wakefulness”, actually increased their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease from 6.7% to 12.8%.
The research team behind the study, which was published in the European Heart Journal, also found evidence that women are at greater risk — even though men experience unconscious wakefulness frequently.
This was explained away by Associate Professor Dominik Linz, who works for Dutch institution Maastricht University, who said, “The triggers causing an arousal or the body’s response to arousal may differ in women compared to men.”
Explaining that this may be the reason for the higher risk of cardiovascular death in women, Professor Linz continued, “Women and men may have different compensatory mechanisms for coping with the detrimental effects of arousal.”
But don’t stress yourself out too much (we say, after dropping a bomb like that). The research team advised on how to reduce the “arousal burden” — the only time arousal will ever be referred to as a burden.
It included practising better sleep hygiene and reducing noise pollution. Might we suggest brown noise, which has a host of anecdotal benefits?
And if you’re concerned about your heart, we’ve got tips for improving your heart health too.