Sleep Duration Has a Shocking Effect on Heart Attack Risk

A new study published this week shows a surprising correlation between sleep and your risk of having a heart attack.

By Loren Bullock

The fact that sleep affects almost every aspect of our health is widely known at this point, but did you know that the amount of sleep you get has an affect on both heart health and heart failure? A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found out exactly how much the hours of sleep collected each night increases the risk of heart problems, regardless of other determining factors.

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Correlation Between Sleep and Heart Health

Eating well and doing daily physical activity are easy ways to keep your heart beating strong, but sleep is just as important. When you get enough sleep, your body can repair itself, lower your heart rate, and keep its chemical output stable. However, when you go through sleep deprivation, your body’s chemistry is unbalanced, leading to high blood pressure and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

An international team of researchers set out to discover exactly how sleep duration affects myocardial infarction (MI), AKA heart attack, and Coronary Artery Disease (CAD).

The Study

Researchers from both the United States and the UK collected and analyzed the medical records (and thus, self-reported sleep habits) of 461,347 people. All of the participants were from the UK, aged between 40-69, and free of cardiovascular disease.

They looked at people with no genetic risk of MI or CAD, people with sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea, and those with both good and bad sleep quality.

The Results

The findings of the study were as follows:

  • Short sleepers, AKA those who slept less than 6 hours a night, had a 20% higher risk of incident MI.
  • Longer sleepers, AKA those who slept longer than 9 hours per night, showed a heightened 34% risk for heart attack.
  • Patients who have a short or long sleep duration along with having a high genetic risk for CAD, had a 130% higher risk of MI when compared with patients with a low genetic risk who slept for the recommended amount of time.

Simply broken down: if you sleep too much or too little, your risk of heart attack goes up significantly. This is especially true if you sleep longer than 9 hours per night.

But, the participants that had predetermined risk factors for MI and CAD cut that risk down by 18% just because they slept between 6-9 hours each night.

The Impact

The senior author of this study, Dr. Celine Vetter states, “This provides some of the strongest proof yet that sleep duration is a key factor when it comes to heart health, and this holds true for everyone.” Regardless, of your current heart health or genetics, poor sleeping habits can impact your risk of attack.

Dr. Vetter goes on to outline your exact risk based on the hours of sleep you are getting:

  • 4 hours of sleep leads to a 96% increase
  • 5 hours of sleep leads to a 52% increase
  • 10 hours of sleep leads to a 107% increase
  • 11 hours of sleep leads to a 178% increase

How to Sleep Better

The best way to offset this increased risk of MI or CAD is to optimize your sleep and get between the recommended hours. Here are 3 tips for getting better sleep:

  1. Start a sleep routine: The best way to improve your duration is to do it consistently. Set aside enough time to sleep for at least 6-7 hours each night. This could mean going to bed a little earlier, or initiating a wind-down routine or pre-bedtime ritual. If your problem is sleeping too much, set an earlier alarm.
  2. Identify any sleep disorders: Sometimes, health conditions or sleep disorders can be disturbing the time you spend K.O.ed. Sleep apnea can make it so you stop breathing. Insomnia can make it so you don’t fall asleep at all. Once you’ve pinpointed the issue, you can take steps to fix it.
  3. Go to a sleep clinic: If you don’t exactly know why you have problems falling asleep or staying asleep, it may be time to visit a sleep clinic where specialists monitor your sleep habits and can identify the sleep problem for you.

Sleep is still one of our three most basic needs as humans, and it links to most health problems. This study only proves that the heart is no exception, so try to get enough sleep, but not too much sleep.

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