This Amount of Sleep Could Be Dangerous for Your Arteries

Here’s more evidence that you should make getting a good night’s sleep a priority

sleeping icsnaps/Shutterstock

Well-known benefits of sleep range from better brain health to a better mood—but not all sleep is equal. Now new research presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2018 in Munich, Germany, suggests a connection between sleeping less than six hours, or waking up several times at night, and hardening of the arteries.

The study, conducted by Fernando Dominguez, MD, PhD, of the Spanish National Centre for Cardiovascular Research, monitored the sleep quality and quantity of 3,974 healthy, middle-aged adults for seven days. They used ultrasound technology to assess the patients’ leg and neck arteries and divided them into five groups based on the length of their sleep time. Researchers found that very short sleepers had significantly more atherosclerosis, or artery hardening, than those who got seven to eight hours. Know the 7 silent signs you might have clogged arteries.

Although this study suggests a possible association between sleep and artery health, Alan Ackermann, DO, FACC, a TopLine, MD cardiologist practicing in Aventura, Florida, says that the research indicates only an association between sleep and artery health. So although hardened arteries link to sleep time, that doesn’t mean specific sleep times directly cause this effect. Plus, Dr. Ackermann says, the type of atherosclerosis reported was not found in any coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart. Learn more about what your sleep habits could mean.

Dr. Ackermann also notes that most of the individuals who slept the least had a higher incidence of metabolic syndrome, which is already associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. The study participants may also have a higher incidence of sleep apnea—another condition that is a suspected risk factor for cardiovascular disease, according to Dr. Ackermann. Read the 8 things you need to know about metabolic syndrome.

Poor sleep habits for any reason can have a negative and snowball-like impact on the body in general. Dr. Ackermann says that poor sleep can increase the risk for developing insulin resistance and diabetes or obesity in the long run, both of which are major contributors to cardiovascular disease. Bottom line: More research is necessary into the specific link between sleep and arteries. Dr. Ackermann says, however, that getting a good night’s sleep is always a good idea for your overall health and well-being. Next, check out these 20 foods that can help unclog your arteries.

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Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is an associate editor at The Healthy and a former assistant staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her work has appeared online at the Food Network and Well + Good and in print at Westchester Magazine, and more. When she's not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting heavy things at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts, and liking one too many astrology memes.