Sleep Disorders

09 February 2011

Too little sleep bad for heart

Prolonged sleep deprivation and disrupted sleep patterns can have long-term health implications including strokes, heart attacks and cardiovascular disorders, research shows.


Prolonged sleep deprivation and disrupted sleep patterns can have long-term, serious health implications, according to new research from Warwick Medical School published in the European Heart Journal.

Leading academics from the University have linked lack of sleep to strokes, heart attacks and cardiovascular disorders which often result in early death.

Professor Francesco Cappuccio from the University of Warwick Medical School (UK), explained: "If you sleep less than six hours per night and have disturbed sleep you stand a 48% greater chance of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15% greater chance of developing or dying of a stroke.

"The trend for late nights and early mornings is actually a ticking time bomb for our health so you need to act now to reduce your risk of developing these life-threatening conditions."

Research programme

Cappuccio and co-author Dr Michelle Miller, from the University of Warwick, conducted the research programme which followed up evidence from seven to 25 years from more than 470,000 participants from eight countries including Japan, USA, Sweden and UK.

"There is an expectation in today's society to fit more into our lives. The whole work/life balance struggle is causing too many of us to trade in precious sleeping time to ensure we complete all the jobs we believe are expected of us," explained Cappuccio.

"But in doing so, we are significantly increasing the risk of suffering a stroke or developing cardiovascular disease resulting in, for example, heart attacks," he added.

Harmful hormones and chemicals

Miller explained further: "Chronic short sleep produces hormones and chemicals in the body which increase the risk of developing heart disease and strokes, and other conditions like high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes and obesity".

But Professor Cappuccio did warn of the implications of going too far the other way, as sleeping overly long – more than nine hours at a stretch – may be an indicator of illness, including cardiovascular disease.

"By ensuring you have about seven hours sleep a night, you are protecting your future health, and reducing the risk of developing chronic illnesses. The link is clear from our research: get the sleep you need to stay healthy and live longer." - (EurekAlert!, February 2011)

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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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