Poor sleep may take a toll on your heart

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"But this study emphasizes we have to include sleep as one of the weapons we use to fight heart disease ― a factor we are compromising every day", said senior study author José M. Ordovás, PhD, "This is the first study to show that objectively measured sleep is independently associated with atherosclerosis throughout the body, not just in the heart".

The participants were 46 years old on average with no known history of heart disease from the CNIC-Santander PESA study, which looks at how cardiovascular disease advances.

Participants had their hearts monitored for seven days.

They found that a group that slept less than six hours a night had a higher buildup of fatty plaque in their arteries, a unsafe sign of impending heart disease.

Not getting enough sleep increased the likelihood of atherosclerosis - plaque buildup in the arteries - throughout the body, the study found. The quality of sleep is defined as how often a person woke up during the night, as well as the frequency of movements during the sleep which reflect the sleep phases.

There is an important health warning about your heart and how much you're sleeping, or not sleeping.

-Those who slept more than eight hours.

About half of Australian adults don't sleep enough, and this study reaffirms that the toll goes far beyond making us feel exhausted and grumpy.

Meanwhile, the researchers also noted that while the number of participants who slept for more than eight hours a night was small, women who slept for more than eight hours a night appeared to have an increased risk of atherosclerosis.

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The new study is different from previous studies on sleep and heart health in several ways, Ordovás says.

Participants with "poor-quality" sleep - frequent awakenings or difficulty getting to sleep - were also 34 percent more likely to have atherosclerosis, compared to those with good-quality sleep.

"Many people think alcohol is a good inducer of sleep, but there's a rebound effect", he said.

Dr. Deepak Bhatt is a Cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

"Probably the sweet spot for sleep duration is around seven-eight hours, but I should say that is seven-eight hours of really good sleep, because, again, the quality of sleep matter".

Prior observational research has highlighted the robust relationship of both long and short habitual sleep periods with stroke, coronary heart disease, death, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and obesity. That's an upgrade from earlier similar studies that relied on participants self-reporting their sleep, data that isn't always reliable.

That's the amount of sleep Moran aims to get each night.

Technology that's so integral to our daily lives cannot only jazz up our bedrooms but also improve the way we sleep at night.

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