Unexpected link between Heart Disease and sleep disturbances
A recent study conducted by researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has revealed an unexpected connection between heart disease and sleep disturbances. The research has identified a new factor that affects the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, and it involves a ganglion located in the neck region. With over one-third of people with heart conditions experiencing sleep problems, this discovery could lead to new therapeutic approaches for alleviating these sleep disorders. This article aims to explain in simple terms what this study means and how it may impact the lives of people with heart issues.
- What is melatonin and how does it affect sleep?
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the pineal gland, located in the brain. Known as the “sleep hormone,” it plays a crucial role in regulating our sleep-wake cycles. When melatonin levels are low, sleep can be disturbed, leading to sleep disorders.
- Sleep disturbances in Heart Disease
Previous studies have shown that people with heart disease often have reduced levels of melatonin. This may be one of the reasons why approximately one-third of heart patients experience sleep problems. What the new study found is that there is a direct link between heart disease and decreased melatonin production.
- How ganglia affect melatonin production?
Ganglia are clusters of nerve cells that act as “switchboxes” for transmitting signals between different parts of the body. They regulate many involuntary processes, including melatonin production in the pineal gland. In this study, researchers discovered that a specific type of ganglion located in the neck region, called the superior cervical ganglion, plays a critical role in regulating melatonin levels.
- Research and discoveries
Researchers analyzed cervical ganglia in the brains of mice and heart disease patients. They observed that heart patients had an increased number of macrophages – cells that consume dead cells – in the superior cervical ganglion. These macrophages caused inflammation and scarring in the ganglion, leading to the destruction of nerve cells that transmit signals to the pineal gland. As a result of this damage, melatonin production decreased, and the body’s day/night rhythm was disrupted.
- Potential future treatments
During the study, researchers used medications to destroy macrophages in the superior cervical ganglion of mice. The results showed that melatonin production returned to normal levels, suggesting that the ganglion plays a crucial role in sleep disturbances associated with heart disease. This discovery offers hope for developing new therapies to prevent irreversible sleep disturbances in heart patients.
The study conducted by TUM researchers sheds new light on how heart disease can affect sleep through ganglia. The discovery of this connection could open up new avenues for developing effective treatments for sleep disorders in people with heart conditions. In the future, research in this direction could bring significant benefits to the health and quality of life of heart patients.