Study details the ideal sleep pattern to help protect heart health

Many studies have linked getting too few hours of sleep with increased health risks, including greater odds of developing heart disease. One may assume that getting extra sleep will have positive health benefits, but that may not be the case, at least when it comes to heart disease risk. That's according to a new study from the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

The new study, which will be presented at the upcoming American College of Cardiology's 70th Annual Scientific Session, found that getting too much sleep can increase the risk of developing heart disease, underscoring the role one's lifestyle plays in long-term health outcomes.

The research involved data on more than 14,000 people who had participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2005 to 2010. The participants were split into three groups using the sleep data they provided as part of the survey. The study determined the participants' atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk scores, which predicts one's risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke, as well as dying from, a condition called atherosclerosis.

The researchers found what they describe as a U-shaped link between the amount of sleep the participants got and their risk levels. People who got less than six hours of sleep per night were at the greatest risk of dying from heart health issues compared to people who got between six to seven hours of sleep.

Likewise, the participants who got more than seven hours of sleep were also at a higher risk, though not as much as the sub-six hours sleep group. The good news, however, is that sleep is a lifestyle factor that many people can easily adjust with the goal of protecting their long-term health.

The study's lead author Kartik Gupta, MD, noted:

Participants who sleep less or more than six to seven hours have higher ASCVD risk scores, which is likely driven by heightened inflammation as measured by [the protein] CRP, which was found to be higher among those who had less or more sleep. The effect of sleep probably accrues over time; it takes time for the damage to happen.