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Stress. 2012 Jan;15(1):45-51. doi: 10.3109/10253890.2011.578266. Epub 2011 Jun 19.

Perceived stress correlates with disturbed sleep: a link connecting stress and cardiovascular disease.

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Integrative Cardiac Health Project, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC 20012-0608, USA.


The association between stress and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk is becoming established. A mechanistic link clarifying the intermediate steps between the experience of stress and the development of CVD would support this association. We sought to examine the role of perceived stress as a factor associated with disturbed sleep with the goal of providing an explanation for the stress-CVD connection. We performed a cross-sectional analysis of data recorded by subjects at entry to our CVD prevention program. Data collection included questionnaire surveys, anthropometrics, and a CVD-relevant laboratory panel. Of 350 consecutively enrolled subjects (mean age 54.4 ± 12.4 [SD] years, 138 men, 39%), 165 (47%) scored above the mean for stress measures. These high-stress subjects displayed an increased cardiovascular risk profile including elevated body mass index (mean ± SD 31.1 ± 5.9 vs. 29.0 ± 5.9, r(s) = 0.175), increased waist circumference (102 ± 17 cm vs. 98 ± 14, r(s) = 0.135), and elevated high-sensitivity serum C-reactive protein (0.384 mg/dl vs. 0.356, r(s) = 0.109). High-stress subjects also demonstrated greater daytime sleepiness (Epworth Sleepiness Scale: 10.4 ± 5.0 vs. 7.8 ± 4.8, r(s) < 0.316), greater fatigue (fatigue scale: 5.4 ± 2.2 vs. 3.4 ± 2.4, r(s) = 0.484), poorer sleep quality (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index: 8.5 ± 4.4 vs. 5.9 ± 4.0, r(s) = 0.416), and shorter sleep duration (20 min less/24 h, r(s) = negative 0.177) with a higher risk for sleep apnea (60% at high risk vs. 40%, p = 0.003) than low-stress subjects. High stress was associated with significant disturbances in sleep duration and sleep quality. Stress levels also correlated with daytime consequences of disturbed sleep. The stress-sleep connection may be an important mechanistic mediator of the association between stress and CVD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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