Lack of Sleep Could Raise Heart Disease Risk Almost as Much as Smoking

Sleeping too much or too little is almost as bad for the heart as smoking, according to a new study.

Previous research failed to deliver a definitive answer on whether a lack of sleep raised the risk of heart disease. A Sweden-based team of scientists sought to provide new insight by studying 1,463 men who were born in Gothenburg in 1943.

Moa Bengtsson, a researcher at the University of Gothenburg, said: "For people with busy lives, sleeping may feel like a waste of time, but our study suggests that short sleep could be linked with future cardiovascular disease.

"In our study, the magnitude of increased cardiovascular risk associated with insufficient sleep is similar to that of smoking or having diabetes at age 50."

Researchers performed physical examinations on the participants and also asked them to fill out a health survey that included questions on how much they slept on average, and how much they exercised and smoked.

Sleeping too much to too little could raise the risk of heart disease. Getty Images

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The data was divided into four groups: five hours of sleep or less, six hours, seven to eight hours, and more than eight hours. Between seven to eight hours was defined as a normal duration.

The participants were revisited 21 years later and asked whether they had experienced any heart problems, such as heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, or coronary revascularization. If the participant had died, this was also noted.

"Men with the shortest sleep duration at the age of 50 were twice as likely to have had a cardiovascular event by age 71 than those who slept a normal amount, even when other risk factors were taken into account," Bengtsson said.

"This was an observational study so based on our findings we cannot conclude that short sleep causes cardiovascular disease, or say definitively that sleeping more will reduce risk. However, the findings do suggest that sleep is important—and that should be a wake-up call to all of us."

Men who slept five or fewer hours per night were also found to be more likely to experience diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure than those who slept seven to eight hours. The study did not evaluate women.

The study is set to be presented at the European Society of Cardiology meeting on August 29.