Too Little Sleep, Too Often, May Harm Your Heart

WEDNESDAY Feb. 9, 2011 -- A lack of sleep apparently can increase your risk for stroke and heart attack.

That's the finding of British researchers who analyzed data collected from more than 470,000 people in eight countries, including the United States.

"If you sleep less than six hours per night and have disturbed sleep, you stand a 48 percent greater chance of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15 percent greater chance of developing or dying of a stroke," Dr. Francesco Cappuccio, of the Warwick Medical School in England and a co-author of the research, said in a news release from the University of Warwick.

"The trend for late nights and early mornings is actually a ticking time bomb for our health so you need to act now to reduce your risk of developing these life-threatening conditions," he added.

Dr. Michelle Miller, who co-authored the study with Cappuccio, explained in the news release that "chronic short sleep produces hormones and chemicals in the body which increase the risk of developing heart disease and strokes, and other conditions like high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes and obesity."

The study was published Feb. 8 in the European Heart Journal.

"There is an expectation in today's society to fit more into our lives," Cappuccio said. "The whole work/life balance struggle is causing too many of us to trade in precious sleeping time to ensure we complete all the jobs we believe are expected of us."

"But in doing so," he said, "we are significantly increasing the risk of suffering a stroke or developing cardiovascular disease resulting in, for example, heart attacks."

Getting about seven hours of sleep a night protects your health and reduces your risk for developing chronic disease, he advised.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about sleep.

Posted: February 2011


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