Study: 6-8 hours of sleep just right for heart health — Any more or less could be harmful

MUNICH — Just like Goldilocks in pursuit of the perfect bowl of porridge, sleeping six to eight hours each night is just right for heart health. Any more or less than that amount of time can potentially be detrimental to our hearts, new research shows.

Researchers investigated the relationship between sleep duration and cardiovascular disease by performing a meta-analysis on 11 prior studies that had been published within the past five years. This meta-analysis included over one million adults with no cardiovascular disease history.

“We spend one-third of our lives sleeping yet we know little about the impact of this biological need on the cardiovascular system,” explains study author Dr. Epameinondas Fountas, of the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre in Athens, Greece, in a release by the European Society of Cardiology.

The researchers separated the study subjects into two groups: those with a short nightly sleep duration (less than six hours), and those with a long nightly sleep duration (more than eight hours). These groups were then compared to the reference group; individuals who reported exactly six to eight hours of sleep each night.

Both long and short duration sleepers had a greater risk of developing or dying from coronary artery disease or stroke. When compared to adults who slept exactly six to eight hours a night, short sleepers had an 11% greater risk of coronary artery disease or stroke, while long sleepers had a 33% greater risk.

“Our findings suggest that too much or too little sleep may be bad for the heart,” Dr. Fountas comments. “More research is needed to clarify exactly why, but we do know that sleep influences biological processes like glucose metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation – all of which have an impact on cardiovascular disease.”

The research team were quick to point out that the occasional sleepless night or lazy morning isn’t going to drastically change someone’s cardiovascular situation, but did assert that it is advisable not to make such practices a long-term habit.

“The good news is that there are plenty of ways to get into the habit of getting six to eight hours a night – for example by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, avoiding alcohol and caffeine before bed, eating healthily, and being physically active. Getting the right amount of sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle,” Dr. Fountas concludes.

The findings were presented at the ESC Congress in August 2018.

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