Too much or too little sleep can increase the risk of heart disease. However, for individuals with genetic predispositions to cardiovascular disease, getting the right amount of sleep each night can help lower heart attack risk.
Researchers from the University of Colorado, Boulder, the University of Manchester, and the Massachusetts General Hospital analyzed medical records and sleep habits from the UK Biobank in a new study.
The researchers reviewed data from 461,000 Biobank participants ages 40 to 69. The participants had no prior heart attack history and were followed up for a period of seven years.
The participants that slept less than six hours each night on average were 20 percent more likely to have a heart attack in the follow-up period.
Participants that slept more than nine hours each night were 34 percent more likely to have a heart attack.
“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,” said Celine Vetter, the senior author of the study.
The correlated risks held true even after accounting for 30 different influencing factors like physical activity, smoking history, and mental health.
The researchers also investigated the potentially protective benefits sleep provides for people with a genetic predisposition to heart disease and found that genetically influenced short sleep periods increased heart attack risk.
Sleeping between six and nine hours each night decreased heart attack by 18 percent for people with a genetic predisposition to cardiovascular disease.
It is still not clear how sleeping too much or too little increases heart disease risk, but the study shows a clear link between sleeping and heart attacks.
“It’s kind of a hopeful message, that 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,” said Iyas Daghlas, the lead author of the study.
The researchers published their findings in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Image Credit: Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia