Sleep Duration—Too Long or Too Short—Appears Linked With Cardiovascular Problems

Sleeping less than 6 hours or more than 8 hours may increase the risk for various cardiovascular complications. (Image: Nicole S. Young/

Chicago—Getting the proper amount of sleep appears protective against experiencing heart problems or stroke.

At today’s scientific session of the American College of Cardiology here in Chicago, researchers presented findings suggesting that those sleeping less than 6 hours of sleep per night are twice as likely as those sleeping 6 to 8 hours per night to experience a stroke or heart attack and 60% more likely to have congestive heart failure. At the other end of the spectrum, those who sleep more than 8 hours per night are twice as likely as those who sleep 6 to 8 hours each night to have angina and they also have a 10% higher chance of having coronary artery disease.

The findings are based on a retrospective study of more than 3000 participants over the age of 45 years who were enrolled in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Insufficient sleep has been linked to hyperactivation of the sympathetic nervous system, glucose intolerance, diabetes, and an increase in stress hormone levels, blood pressure, resting heart rate, and inflammatory markers—all of which are associated with cardiovascular disease. What particularly intrigued the researches of the current study was the association of longer sleep with heart problems.

Rohit R. Arora, MD, principal investigator and professor of medicine at the Chicago Medical School in North Chicago, IL, said that the nature of the association between longer sleep duration and increased heart risks is unclear. “We don’t know whether sleeping longer causes heart complications or whether the heart problems cause someone to sleep longer,” Arora said.

If these findings are confirmed in larger prospective studies, sleep duration may be another lifestyle modification that could be suggested by physicians to their patients and also serve as another screening tool for physicians assessing heart risks for their patients, said Arora.

Categories: Cardiovascular Disease/Myocardial Infarction, Cardiovascular System, Congestive Heart Failure/Cardiomyopathy, Stroke