Here’s another reason to get more rest: Less than six hours of sleep a night can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. When compared with those who got seven to eight hours of sleep, people who got just six hours were 27 percent more likely to have hardening of the arteries.
The conclusions by a Tufts University researcher are the first to show that sleep is associated with plaque buildup in arteries throughout the body, not just in the heart. The findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The study involved nearly 4,000 bank employees in Spain and used imaging techniques to detect signs of cardiovascular problems. Participants wore a small device that measures activity during sleep. They were later scanned for cardiovascular disease using ultrasound and CT scans.
There were also indications that sleeping too much wasn’t a good thing, either. A small number of women in the study who slept more than eight hours were found to have an increased risk of hardened arteries.
It wasn’t just the amount of sleep that mattered for cardiovascular risks. Those who had poor sleep quality were 34 percent more likely to have plaque buildup in their arteries than those who slept well. Sleep quality was defined by the amount of movement and how often a person woke up.
One commonality among those with short and disturbed sleep was higher alcohol and caffeine consumption. Alcohol is commonly thought of as a good sleep inducer, but it can actually contribute to shorter, poor-quality sleep.
A good night’s sleep should be right there with a healthy diet and regular exercise as pillars of a long and happy life.