Less Than Six Hours of Sleep a Night May Increase Atherosclerosis

People who sleep less than six hours a night may be at increased risk of atherosclerosis compared with those who sleep between seven and eight hours, according to a study published Jan. 14 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Fernando Domínguez, MD, PhD, et al., performed seven-day actigraphic recording in 3,974 bank employees in Spain from the PESA CNIC- Santander Study. They were divided into four groups: those who slept less than six hours, those who slept six to seven hours, those who slept seven to eight hours and those who slept more than eight hours. The participants underwent 3D heart ultrasound and cardiac CT scans to look for cardiovascular disease.

The study found that when traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease were considered, participants who slept less than six hours were 27 percent more likely to have atherosclerosis throughout the body compared with those who slept seven to eight hours. Women who slept more than eight hours per night were also at an increased risk for atherosclerosis. Those who had a poor quality of sleep, defined by how often they woke during the night and the frequency of movements during sleep, were 34 percent more likely to have atherosclerosis compared with those who had a good quality of sleep.

The researchers found that alcohol and caffeine consumption were higher in participants with short and disrupted sleep.

In an accompanying editorial comment, Daniel J. Gottlieb, MD, MPH, and Deepak L. Bhatt, MD, MPH, FACC, said further studies are needed to determine whether changing sleep behaviors will improve cardiovascular health. "The potentially enormous impact of sleep deprivation and disruption on population health, reinforced by the present study, is ample justification for such trials, which are needed to place sleep with confidence alongside diet and exercise as a key pillar of a healthy lifestyle," they wrote.

Keywords: Sleep Deprivation, Risk Factors, Caffeine, Spain, Actigraphy, Sleep, Diet, Cardiovascular Diseases, Atherosclerosis

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