Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little? You Might Be Hurting Your Heart

Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, the number of hours you clock in bed every night is very important for your heart health, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

While sleeping too little is known to be bad for your health, turns out that sleeping too much might be harmful as well.

Optimal amount of sleep – less arterial plaque

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The study involved close to 2000 participants, aged between 40 to 98 years, and included healthy people as well as those with a known history of cardiovascular risks. Apart from measuring the thickness of their arterial walls, using ultrasound imaging Dr. Oikonomou, the lead author of the study, along with his team also tracked the number of hours they slept for and divided them into groups as per their sleep duration.

Here’s what they found:

  • Participants in the longer and shorter sleep duration groups showed greater plaque buildup in the artery walls.
  • Those who slept for 7-8 hours a night showed significantly less stiffness in their arteries.

Both the findings highlight that getting the right amount of sleep can prevent the onset of premature heart disease and act as what Dr. Oikonomou calls a ‘Cardioprotective factor’, like diet and exercise.

So, how much sleep do you optimally need?

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The number of hours of sleep you need might actually depend on the way your metabolism is wired.

While most studies recommend getting 6-8 hours of sleep a night, it’s important to understand that the sweet spot might lie between 6-8 hours for most people, but not necessarily for all people. We are all unique and so is our body’s sleep requirement. Not everyone needs 8 hours of sleep; some can do well with 6.5, while others may need 9.

The key insight from this study is that if you are sleeping a lot less, or a lot more than the optimum amount of sleep you need, your heart is not going to like it.

Think about when you were younger and at the peak of your health. How many hours of sleep did you need then? That’s a good baseline to start with. If you are healthy and well, it is quite likely that your optimal number of hours will be pretty close to your baseline.

Not quite sure how it used to be when you were younger? No worries, you can figure it out now as well. Just observe how many hours of sleep you need to wake up feeling alert, and refreshed the next morning. That’s your magic number.

Never waking up feeling rested and refreshed? Here is a detailed article with practical tips on how to sleep better.

References

Oikonomou, Evangelos, et al. “The U Shape Pattern of Sleep Duration With Carotid Atherosclerosis. Insights From the Corinthia Study.” Circulation 140.Suppl_1 (2019): A15781-A15781.