Too much, too little sleep linked to higher heart disease risk

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In a new study, researchers found people who clock six to seven hours of sleep a night had the lowest chance of dying from a heart attack or stroke when compared with those who got less or more sleep.

They say sleep is often overlooked as something that may play a role in heart disease, and it may be among the most cost-effective ways to lower heart risk.

In the study, the team included data from 14,079 participants in the 2005-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Participants were followed for 7.5 years to determine if they died due to heart attack, heart failure or stroke.

Researchers divided participants into three groups based on answers to a survey question about their average length of sleep.

They then assessed participants’ atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) risk scores and levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a key inflammatory marker known to be associated with heart disease.

The team found there was a U-shape relationship based on sleep duration such that participants with six to seven hours had the lowest risk.

Participants who slept less than six hours or more than seven hours had a higher chance of death due to cardiac causes.

Levels of CRP, a protein made in the liver that rises when there is inflammation in the body, were also higher in participants with longer or shorter duration of sleep.

The team says participants who sleep less or more than six to seven hours have higher ASCVD risk scores, which is likely driven by heightened inflammation as measured by CRP, which was found to be higher among those who had less or more sleep.

The effect of sleep probably accrues over time; it takes time for the damage to happen.

According to the researchers, unlike some risk factors for heart disease that can’t be changed, such as age or genetics, sleep habits can be adjusted and should be routinely asked about during medical visits.

The amount of sleep found to be favorable to heart health in this study differs slightly from national recommendations by the National Sleep Foundation and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, which recommend most adults get seven to nine hours or seven or more hours of sleep a night, respectively.

More research is needed to further validate these results.

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The study was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 70th Annual Scientific Session. One author of the study is Kartik Gupta, MD.

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