This Amount of Sleep Could Be Dangerous for Your Arteries

Here’s more evidence that you should make getting a good night’s sleep a priority

Well-known benefits of sleep range from better brain health to a better mood—but not all sleep is equal. Now new research presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2018 in Munich, Germany, suggests a connection between sleeping less than six hours, or waking up several times at night, and hardening of the arteries.

The study, conducted by Fernando Dominguez, MD, PhD, of the Spanish National Centre for Cardiovascular Research, monitored the sleep quality and quantity of 3,974 healthy, middle-aged adults for seven days. They used ultrasound technology to assess the patients’ leg and neck arteries and divided them into five groups based on the length of their sleep time. Researchers found that very short sleepers had significantly more atherosclerosis, or artery hardening, than those who got seven to eight hours.

Although this study suggests a possible association between sleep and artery health, Alan Ackermann, DO, FACC, a TopLine, MD cardiologist practicing in Aventura, Florida, says that the research indicates only an association between sleep and artery health. So although hardened arteries link to sleep time, that doesn’t mean specific sleep times directly cause this effect. Plus, Dr. Ackermann says, the type of atherosclerosis reported was not found in any coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart.

Dr. Ackermann also notes that most of the individuals who slept the least had a higher incidence of metabolic syndrome, which is already associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. The study participants may also have a higher incidence of sleep apnea—another condition that is a suspected risk factor for cardiovascular disease, according to Dr. Ackermann.

Poor sleep habits for any reason can have a negative and snowball-like impact on the body in general. Dr. Ackermann says that poor sleep can increase the risk for developing insulin resistance and diabetes or obesity in the long run, both of which are major contributors to cardiovascular disease. Bottom line: More research is necessary into the specific link between sleep and arteries. Dr. Ackermann says, however, that getting a good night’s sleep is always a good idea for your overall health and well-being.

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