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the sweet spot

This is how much sleep you should be getting every night for maximum heart healthiness

Much less than six hours, and anything more than eight puts you at a significantly higher risk of heart trouble, new research suggests.

shutterstock_1005853636 Shutterstock / Romeovip_md Shutterstock / Romeovip_md / Romeovip_md

HOW MUCH SLEEP should you be getting?

It’s one of the eternal questions and everyone seems to have a different point of view on the subject.

A new study has attempted to answer it definitively however. And the answer? Between six and eight hours.

Any more or any less is considered detrimental to a person’s health.

The findings of the study, authored by Dr Epameinondas Fountas of the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre in Athens, were today presented to the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Munich, Germany.

“We spend one-third of our lives sleeping yet we know little about the impact of this biological need on the cardiovascular system,” says Fountas.

The study investigates the relationship between sleep duration and cardiovascular disease.

To do so, Fountas used 11 prospective studies, ie ones based on future data to avoid recall bias (where someone can’t accurately recall information), of over a million people, split into three groups, all published within the last five years. None of those studied initially had cardiovascular disease.

Coronary disease

The three groups were those who sleep for more than eight hours a night, those who sleep for less than six, and those in between.

The findings indicate that both short and long sleepers had a greater risk of dying from coronary artery disease or a stroke. Longer sleepers are particularly at risk – they were 33% more likely to develop complications, as opposed to 11% for those sleeping for less than six hours nightly.

“Our findings suggest that too much or too little sleep may be bad for the heart,” says Fountas. “More research is needed to clarify exactly why, but we do know that sleep influences biological processes like glucose metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation – all of which have an impact on cardiovascular disease.”

However, he concedes that the odd late night or sleeping binge won’t necessarily doom us to having a dodgy heart.

“Having the odd short night or lie-in is unlikely to be detrimental to health, but evidence is accumulating that prolonged nightly sleep deprivation or excessive sleeping should be avoided,” says Fountas.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to get into the habit of getting six to eight hours a night – for example by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, avoiding alcohol and caffeine before bed, eating healthily, and being physically active.

“Getting the right amount of sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.”

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