Seven hours is the magic number for a healthy heart. Too much or too little sleep may elevate your risk for heart disease.
Heart attack, stroke, coronary heart disease and angina are twice as prevalent among people who consistently get less than five hours of sleep. Sleeping in an extra hour or two a day isn’t much better. The rate of cardiovascular disease is 1.5 times higher for people who sleep nine hours a night.
The conclusions were based on data from a large 2005 survey featuring questions about sleep length and incidence of heart disease. A study that analyzed the data was published in the August 1st issue of SLEEP.
The authors analyzed how 30,307 adults responded to the 2005 National Health Interview Survey. The survey also collected information on demographic factors, socioeconomic characteristics, lifestyle and health. About 2,100 respondents reported some form of heart disease.
Surprisingly, people who slept a fairly normal six or eight hours a night also had a moderately elevated risk. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends the average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep, though individual sleep needs may vary.
Adults under 60 years of age had the highest association between short sleep and cardiovascular disease. This relationship affects women more than men.
The initial data was adjusted to account for complicating factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption and body mass index. The relationship between sleep duration and heart disease remained high after researchers excluded subjects with diabetes, hypertension and depression.
Short sleep duration is associated with metabolic disease and hardened arteries. Long sleep duration may be related to other underlying problems.
If you meet your sleep needs yet still feel fatigued you may have a sleep-related breathing disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that can lead to heart problems or even death. Sleep apnea occurs when excess fatty tissue in the throat periodically interrupts air flow. Anyone can have sleep apnea, even though it’s most common in obese or older populations.
There are several effective treatments, but an overnight sleep study is first required for diagnosis. Sleeping well should be as much a priority as staying physically active in protecting your heart health. Even an extra hour of sleep can potentially save your life in the long term.