If, like us, your brain decides bedtime is the perfect moment to bombard your head with all of your work, relationship and finance worries, it might be time for you to address the effect your lack of sleep is having on your health.
And no, we’re not talking about those panda-like bags under your eyes, or the occasional breakout of acne, rather how sleep deprivation affects your heart.
According to several new studies presented at a meeting of the European Study of Cardiology on Sunday, getting too little – or too much – sleep is associated with significant increased risk for cardiovascular problems including hardened arteries, heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, and more.
In a press release, Dr. Epameinondas Fountas, one of the authors of a meta-analysis about the best amount of sleep for heart health, said: ‘We spend one-third of our lives sleeping yet we know little about the impact of this biological need on the cardiovascular system.’
Fountas and his team examined 11 studies with more than 1 million participants, and the results show just how important it is to prioritise our sleep when it comes to our health, as well as eating well and exercising.
While it’s a well-known fact that sleep researchers recommend seven to nine hours sleep per night, the authors of the meta-analysis found in order to reduce cardiac disease, you should be getting approximately six to eight hours of shut eye.
Any less is associated with an 11 per cent increased risk for dying from coronary heart disease or stroke in the follow-up period of approximately 9 years. Any more and there’s a 33 per cent increase in risk.
Another sleep study presented at the conference involved people wearing a waist-band monitor for one week to track their sleep patterns. The researchers found that people who got less than six hours of sleep per night or woke up frequently had about 27 percent more atherosclerosis (hardening in the arteries that can contribute to heart failure, stroke, or aneurysm).
Meanwhile, one study reported on a group of 798 middle-aged men from Gothenburg, Sweden, who submitted information on how long they slept in a 1993 study. Twenty years later, the men who had slept less than five hours per night were found to have double the risk of a serious cardiovascular event, which an increased risk comparable to the effects of smoking or having diabetes.
Of course, while these studies sound terrifying, it’s important to note it merely shows that sleep deprivation and problems with our ticker can be linked, and don’t necessarily have a cause-and-effect relationship.
Besides, a lack of sleep has been linked to several health issues ranging from obesity to mental health.
‘More research is needed to clarify exactly why, but we do know that sleep influences biological processes like glucose metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation – all of which have an impact on cardiovascular disease,’ Fountas said.
In the meantime, here’s a go-to-guide courtesy of the US military to falling asleep in two minutes.