Findings of a new study suggest that people need to take at least six hours of sleep at night to help keep their heart healthy.


In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology on Jan.14, Jose Ordovas, from the National Center for Cardiovascular Research in Madrid, Spain, and colleagues found that chronic lack of sleep and poor sleep quality can raise a person's odds of accumulating fatty plaque in the arteries throughout the body.

The condition is known as atherosclerosis and it raises the odds of potentially deadly heart attack and stroke.

"Having plaque in the arteries to the heart is what predisposes to heart attacks, and having plaque in the brain is what causes most forms of stroke," Deepak Bhatt, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, explained.

Lack Of Sleep

The researchers used coronary ultrasound and CT scans to monitor the artery health of nearly 4,000 adults who were 46 years old on average.

The researchers found that those who slept less than six hours at night had 27 percent higher odds for body-wide atherosclerosis than those who got seven to eight hours of sleep at night.

Sleep Quality

Ordovas and colleagues also found the quality of sleep also matters. Participants with poor quality sleep characterized by difficulty getting to sleep or frequent awakening, had 34 percent increased chances to have atherosclerosis, compared with those with good quality sleep.

Effects Of Alcohol And Caffeine On Sleep

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

People may indeed sleep more quickly after consuming an alcoholic drink, but alcohol can reduce rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is the stage when people dream and is thought to be restorative. Disrupted REM sleep may cause drowsiness during the day and poor concentration.

"Many people think alcohol is a good inducer of sleep, but there's a rebound effect," Ordovás said. "If you drink alcohol, you may wake up after a short period of sleep and have a hard time getting back to sleep. And if you do get back to sleep, it's often a poor-quality sleep."

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