A study in Spain showed that people who slept less than 6 hours a night were more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those who slept 7-8 hours.
The results were obtained from tracking the activities of 3,974 bank employees for one week. The researchers measured the respondent’s sleep hours and performed a heart scan using the 3D ultrasound method to check for heart disease.
The researchers found that compared to people who slept 7 to 8 hours, those who slept less than 6 hours a night had a 27 percent higher risk of experiencing “abnormalities” of asterosclerosis.
Asterosklerosis is thickening of the arterial wall which is not yet serious enough to cause various complications.
Previous research has linked sleep deprivation to traditional risk factors for heart disease such as high blood sugar, high blood pressure, inflammation, and obesity.
“Sleeping together with diet and physical activity is one of the healthy habits we need to adopt and keep our cardiovascular system healthy,”
“Our results support the general belief that we must have around 8 hours of good sleep per day,”
researcher from CNCI in Madrid and Director of Nutrition and Genomics at Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University
Ordovas suggests that for those who for one reason or another cannot avoid poor hours of sleep, the recommendation is to be more proactive in controlling other lifestyle risk factors such as diet and exercise.
Hardening of the arteries can develop gradually over several years before causing problems.
People can live for years with preclinical abnormalities before experiencing asteroclerosis, which is characterized by a buildup of plaque on artery walls that limits blood flow and can cause heart attacks and strokes.
In addition to lack of sleep, the researchers also found the same risk for people who sleep too long.
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This was seen from around 160 study participants who slept more than 8 hours a night.
Men also have a slightly higher risk of plaque buildup with too much sleep, but the difference is too small to rule out the possibility that it happened by accident.
“It is important to emphasize that more is not always better because excessive sleep can increase cardiovascular risk,”
The study participants averaged 64 years and no one had a history of heart disease. They tended to be overweight but also got about 45 minutes a day to do enough physical activity to be more than enough.
The study team calculated the 10-year and 30-year risks of participants experiencing serious heart events such as a heart attack or stroke using the Framingham risk score calculator.
Overall, participants had a 5.9 percent risk of heart attack or stroke in the first 10 years and a risk of 17.7 percent in 30 years.
However, with a lack of 6 hours of sleep the 10-year risk rose to 6.9 percent and the risk of 30 years increased to 20.9 percent.
This study is not a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how the quality or quantity of sleep can directly affect the hardening of the arteries or cause heart attacks and strokes.
However, the results highlight the importance of getting adequate rest, said the accompanying editorial co-author, Dr. Daniel Gottlieb, Director of the sleep disorders center at VA Boston Healthcare System.
“One of the keys to getting enough sleep is to make sleep a priority – by turning off the TV, computer, tablet and telephone at reasonable hours, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, taking time to relax before going to bed and avoiding caffeine in the afternoon,”
Gottlieb from email