Less than six hours sleep per night increases risk for heart disease

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Ordovas added, "But the study emphasizes we have to include sleep as one of the weapons we use to fight heart disease - a factor we are compromising every day".

To gather their findings, the researchers asked a group of nearly 4,000 bank employees with an average age of 46 and no known history of heart disease. Each person wore an actigraph, a small device that measured the length and quality of sleep, over seven nights.

It claimed those who slept worse - for example, waking up more often in the night - were 34 per cent more likely to have the disease than those who slept well.

It is not a secret that many Americans are sleep deprived, and there is no scarcity of analysis on how unsafe that may be on your health.

The participants were also divided into four groups: those who slept more than eight hours, those who slept seven to eight, those who slept six to seven hours, and those who slept less than six hours.

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Previous studies have shown that lack of sleep raises the risk of cardiovascular disease by increasing heart disease risk factors such as glucose levels, blood pressure, inflammation and obesity, they said.

It showed that sleeping more than eight hours a night may also be associated with an increase in atherosclerosis. "Depending on your genetics, if you metabolize coffee faster, it won't affect your sleep, but if you metabolize it slowly, caffeine can affect your sleep and increase the odds of cardiovascular disease", he says.

Participants with short and disrupted sleep tend to have higher consumption of alcohol and caffeine.

The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), said poor-quality sleep could also be linked to a greater risk of atherosclerosis.

"Many people think alcohol is a good inducer of sleep, but there's a rebound effect", he said.

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In an editorial in the same issue of the journal, Harvard Medical School professors Daniel J. Gottlieb and Deepak L. Bhatt said further research is needed to determine whether changing sleep behaviors will improve heart health.

Healthy sleep patterns of 7 to 8 hours a night may be protective, although the study couldn't determine causality, the researchers noted.

"Probably the sweet spot for sleep duration is around seven-eight hours, but I should say that is seven-eight hours of really good sleep, because, again, the quality of sleep matter". Missing that target a couple of times won't do you much harm - but chronically missing it, for weeks, months or even years in a row, could take a hit on your heart.

That's the amount of sleep Moran aims to get each night.

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