The Side Effect of Too Little Sleep

sleep and heart ageExperts recommend between seven to eight hours of sleep, and for good reason. The latest research findings note that continuously getting less than seven hours of sleep can speed up heart aging. The same is said for over-sleepers.

The study found that Americans who slept for seven hours had the lowest heart risk on average, with their heart being 3.7 years beyond their chronological age. For those who slept for six or eight hours, their heart age was 4.5 years older, and those who slept for five hours or less had a 5.1-year older heart than their chronological age. Having an ‘older’ heart can be detrimental because it increases the risk of cardiovascular-related events.


Lead author of the study Quanhe Yang explained, “Prolonged periods of insufficient sleep have negative effects on multiple body systems including the cardiovascular system. Studies have shown significant relationships between sleep duration and heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity.”

Heart age is predicted by a person’s cardiovascular risk profile which was introduced by the Framingham Heart Study in 2008.
To determine their findings, the researchers analyzed health surveys taken between 2007 and 2014, which consisted of 12,755 participants aged 30 to 74 with no history of stroke or heart disease. Participants were split into one of five groups based on their self-reported sleep schedules.

Excess heart age was calculated by factoring age, sex, blood pressure, treatment for hypertension, smoking history, diabetes, cholesterol, and other factors to determine overall cardiovascular risk.

Cardiologist Dr. Gregg Fonarow, who was not involved in the study, added, “Previously, studies have demonstrated that sleep duration in adults is associated with cardiovascular risk factors, cardiovascular events, and all-cause mortality. Sleep duration that is either too short or too long is associated with greater risk, with most studies suggesting that the lowest risk occurs with seven hours per day of sleep duration.”

If you’re interested in your excess heart age, there are online tools available, or you can speak to your doctor to get your cardiovascular profile. Along with eating well, regular exercise, and not smoking, appropriate sleep length should be part of your healthy lifestyle to maintain a healthy heart.

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  • Author Bio

    Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.


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