New research suggests that the sweet spot for sleep is between six and nine hours each night.

By Zee Krstic
September 03, 2019
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Most people understand that sleeping too little is a bad thing: In addition to feeling groggy all day, we also know that there's little chance of being able to "catch up" on a routine lack of sleep over the weekend. But a bad night of sleep leads to more than just a tough day at work. Earlier this year, data was released suggesting that poor sleep routines vastly increased the risk of a heart attack due to influences at the microbiological level. Now, new research published by a team at the University of Colorado Boulder finds that it's not just night owls who have to worry about how their sleep relates to heart health: The team found that sleeping too much can have the same negative effect on our cardiovascular health as sleeping too little does. 

The research, published this week in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, analyzed data collected from nearly 500,000 people living in the United Kingdom over a period of seven years. The data included detailed information—from genetics to in-depth medical records and self-reported sleep habits—from participants between the ages of 40 and 69 years old with no prior cardiovascular issues. According to the research, sleeping less than six hours a night was associated with elevated risk of heart attack, but logging anything beyond nine hours of sleep was also shown to be just as threatening. 

Related: New Research Ties Blueberries to a Reduced Risk of Heart Disease

Which is worse for your heart health, you might ask? Those who didn't get enough sleep were 20 percent more likely to experience a heart attack during the study's period. Surprisingly, though, individuals who overslept and enjoyed more than nine hours routinely were 34 percent more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event. The amount of risk greatly increased in both respects if people slept less or slept more than the six-to-nine ratio. Sleeping between six and nine hours, however, may cut your risk by up to 18 percent, according to the research.

"This provides some of the strongest proof yet that sleep duration is a key factor when it comes to heart health, and this holds true for everyone,” says Céline Vetter, a professor of integrative physiology at CU Boulder who co-authored the study with other professionals from the University of Manchester and the Massachusetts General Hospital. Vetter shares that the study's approach factored in issues like physical activity and overall body mass index into its results; researchers found that sleep duration still influenced heart attack risks independently from other contributing factors.

"Regardless of what your inherited risk for heart attack is, sleeping a healthy amount may cut that risk just like eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and other lifestyle approaches can," says Iyas Daghlas, one of the study's lead authors at Harvard University. If you're looking to slowly ease into a healthy sleep routine, try one of these foolproof methods for getting a good night's rest each and every night.

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