Atherosclerosis is a condition in which fat deposits along the walls of the arteries blocking their lumens. It is recognized to begin in the first decade of life itself. Therefore, it is important to identify the risk factors of the disease and manage them at the earliest to reduce the associated morbidity and mortality. The potent risk factors of atherosclerosis include obesity, diabetes and hypertension. There have been many studies which have implicated short sleep duration in the pathogenesis of these risk factors. Now, there are evidences to prove that short sleep duration can also lead to high cholesterol, another risk factor in the development of atherosclerosis.
A recent study published in the journal “Sleep” explores the relationship between sleep duration in adolescence and development of hypercholesterolemia in young adulthood. The study, carried out by James E. Gangwisch et al, was an analysis of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. It explored the cholesterol levels of 14, 257 adolescents in grades 7 to 12 in 1994-95 and followed them up at the ages of 18 to 24 in 2001-2002. It tried to find out whether short sleep durations in adolescence would be associated with increased odds of having been diagnosed with high cholesterol 7 to 8 years later in young adulthood. The study hypothesized that physical activity, emotional distress, and body weight would act as mediators of the relationship.
It was concluded from the study that short sleep durations in adolescence significantly increased odds of having been diagnosed with high cholesterol 7 to 8 years later in young adulthood. This association was more marked in female participants suggesting that short sleep duration could play a role in the etiology of hypercholesterolemia in women.
It can be inferred from the study that increasing the amount and improving the quality of sleep can act as a preventive measure against high cholesterol. Implementing sleep hygiene practices and modifying maladaptive sleep habits can be used as behavioral interventions against hypercholesterolemia.