Too Little Sleep, or Too Much, May Raise Heart Attack Risk

Getting less than six hours of sleep a night, or more than nine hours, might increase the risk for heart attack.

Comments: 35

  1. Sleep amount seems much more likely to be an effect than a cause. It’s really hard to dramatically alter the amount you sleep. If your body wants more sleep, you’re likely to nap when you get home from work. if your body is getting all the sleep it wants it’s going to be difficult to get more. It’s hard to even imagine a study in which sleep could be randomized and controlled. I know some of us are short on sleep due to demanding schedules but I still believe on average we all pretty much fall around our body’s desired sleep range.

  2. @S to the B Agreed, the direction of causality is very speculative. The reliability of the genetic definiton clustering is unknown, therefore its validity is limited. Sample sizes are not reported. Absolute vs. relative percentage outcomes are not reported. But thanks for noting that Big Pharma had their hands and money in this study. So much the better for sleeping pills..

  3. @S to the B Nonsense. Many women stop sleeping after menopause and struggle to get more than two or three hours a night. Try having a decent life that way.

  4. @LauraF Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy saved my life, Laura! OK, I exaggerate. But only slightly. I am back to sleeping like a baby.

  5. I tried to be more dedicated to a regular nightly sleep pattern starting about 13 years ago. Previously I did not care about or even really enjoy sleep. Then the word came out you need sleep to remain healthy. Anyway now I have worn a Fitbit for 5-6 years. I average right about 6 hours sleep no matter what. I retired 4 years ago I am quite healthy. Almost 65 years old. I never see doctors. Walk over 5 miles everyday and currently work 45-50 hours of fairly physical labor in my new “retirement” job. I just cannot make myself sleep any more than I already do.

  6. @DRE I'm glad you are healthy and never feel the need to see doctors. Just make an exception and see a gastroenterologist for a possible routine colonoscopy. You might save yourself needless morbidity and even demise from colon cancer, which is fairly common in the US. A polyp diagnosed now can be safely removed and will not inevitably morph into cancer. After that, resume your distance from doctors if that's what you want to do... PS: this comment is intended as a suggestion and not as professional medical advice!

  7. A friend worries about losing her mental skills because her mother lived to an advanced age, but slid into dementia. So did mine. How did these two women sleep, poorly. Neither had cancer nor major health problems but not enough sleep. Two aunts of mine, not related by blood, but enjoying a close friendship when widowed, lived to nearly one hundred years and remained clear as a bell. They always managed eight hours a night, and died of 'Old Age' or when the heart ceases to beat.

  8. In what world does this show causation? Did they attempt to control for other risk factors, like whether the Type A's dominated the 6 hour group and the generally inactive (no exercise) dominate the 9 hour group? Maybe all the study shows is that being Type A or inactive not only raises your risk of heart attack, but also affects one's sleeping patterns.

  9. I have been a very healthy person for a great part of my life because I controlled the amount of salt I ate and exercised walking at least two miles daily. I never smoked nor had a glass of wine or beer for almost 25 years. But something terrible happened. Fours years ago I was hospitalized with afib aka irregular heart beat. If I sleep less than nine hours my day is ruined. I would have to rest during to give my heart a rest. I would say that this article may not apply to persons like me having more than eight hours sleep plus daily napping.

  10. @Tonjo actually, I think it does apply to you...I think the reason long-sleepers see an increase in mortality is because their long-sleep is due to underlying health issues.

  11. Yup. Make sure your bedroom is dark enough and quiet enough or a white noise that doesn't bother you and cool enough that you sleep the suggested six hours. Nothing here about those of us who have sleep disruptions but then go back to sleep usually right away. (And be sure to get some brisk walking or other exercise in during the day.) Frankly, IMO there are multiple factors -- diet, exercise, genetics, control of medication (taken regularly as prescribed and not too many pills) that play roles in heart health -- obesity- obviously.. so in the end one size does not fit all. I wonder what the concomitant factors are for people sleeping more than nine hours? depression? another illness? More questions go unanswered.. Maybe next time we read this article. (like who "healthwise" are the short sleepers and how was their sleep expanded?)

  12. In this comparison study, the overall heart attack rate over 7 years was only 1 percent. So, reporting a relative risk increase of 38 percent among subjects grouped by sleeping duration is misleading. One needs to know the absolute risk increase which is probably very small given the 1 percent overall heart attack rate. In short, looks like a meaningless study to me!

  13. My body determines how long I sleep. If it's over 9 hours, obviously it knows better than I do.

  14. People's sleep habits are closely related to their lifestyles; who's to say what is cause and what is effect. If I sleep less because I have two jobs and bills to pay, I'm probably under a lot of stress. Likewise, sleeping long hours could be an indication of an underlying health issue.

  15. Dr. Mitchell, the CIA's chief torture consultant, said he could torture someone using sleep deprivation and one other more startling, frightening "enhanced interrogation" technique alone. Sometimes misleadingly referred to as "psychological torture", sleep deprivation is at the heart of US torture programs used in counterinsurgency and counterthreat operations abroad and domestically, as part of the US/FBI "disruption" operations. No wonder it is so damaging.

  16. If I stop drinking diet sodas can I sleep less?

  17. Please stop the nonsense. Association does not mean cause and effect. People that sleep more of less may be worse off, but persons requiring more or less sleep who try to do the opposite we have no idea about.

  18. Being born increases your risk for heart attacks because if you are not born you have no risk. The point being there are obvious things that greatly increase your risk, like taking hard drugs and greatly reduces your risk like living a clean life. Everything in between is relatively minute re your chances like this story.

  19. Yeah, "prioritize our sleep." So if I just made more of an effort, I would be getting better than 4-5 hours a night? What nonsense. Most people who routinely sleep well under 7-8 hours (or well over) do so because we cannot help it. Facing higher risks for heart attack and dementia seem like enough to suffer, without being blamed into the bargain.

  20. I used to have frequent insomnia. Two years ago I stopped eating animal products and I now sleep easily and get in my eight hours. Bonus: no more painful 4 am leg cramps. Better sleep may or may not help re heart attacks, but I won’t stay up worrying about it.

  21. This is one but many health related articles posing as something informative in a never ending rotation of speculative ideas and unproven hypotheses that circulate endlessly in each 'news' cycle on the internet. If you want to read more about of the same ilk, you can read about diet soda concerns and how no cause and effect is scientifically proven. Health and fitness articles are riddled with what I like to call 'weasel words' like 'might', 'may', 'suggest', and 'more research needed'; in other words, we really don't know what is going on but we thought we'd confuse you anyway.

  22. We would all be so much happier without these "Might" stories. Just don't write about it until you know one way or the other.

  23. @lanie Exactly, and well said

  24. Observational data always is subject to specific bias no matter how many people are observed. This U shaped curve of sleep related risk has been seen in basically ever large epidemiological study on sleep but it fails to adequately answer causality. In my opinion it is important to get enough sleep and to avoid behavioral sleep restriction. You cannot bank sleep or store it away but simply be deliberate in your process and sleep hours. Waiting for someone to do a randomized study of Long term sleep dose: 4 v 6 v 8 hours and see what happens to long term outcome. IT WILL NEVER be done. Until then many insomniacs will use research like that discussed here as a reason to be more anxious about their inability to sleep.

  25. A study in the Journal of the American Heart Association that looked at 74 studies involving over three million people found that sleeping more than eight hours was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease while sleeping six hours was not duration was not. According to the researchers, their study has an important public health impact in that it shows that excessive sleep is a marker of elevated cardiovascular risk. And in a study published in Nature involving 35 studies and over 1.5 million adults, the lowest mortality is associated with seven hours of sleep, and the increased risk of death associated with sleeping more than seven hours was significantly greater than the risk of sleeping less than seven hours. This relationship between sleep duration and mortality risk is defined by a J-shaped curve. Compared with 7 hours of sleep, the increased risk of all-cause mortality was 7%, 4%, and 1% for 4, 5, and 6 hours of sleep, respectively, while the increased risk of all-cause mortality was 7%, 21%, and 37% for 8, 9, and 10 hours of sleep, respectively. The authors concluded that 7 hours of nighttime sleep is the optimal dose that should be recommended for adults to prevent premature death.

  26. @Sleepdoc - please give the references for these findings.

  27. Unfortunately, this is the sort of evidence upon which much of modern medicine is based. Someone comes up with an hypothesis which is 'supported' by a correlation, the pharma industry develops a pill for it and funds more research. The research is selectively reported--only supporting studies see the light of day. A consensus forms, an industry develops, and then no level of disproof is able to dislodge that consensus.

  28. Sleep patterns are not always modifiable. I am and always have been a heavy sleeper, regularly sleeping 9 or 10 hours. Give me less than 9 and I’m too tired to function. Now at 51 my heart is in great shape and optimal blood pressure thanks to exercice, a good diet, not smoking or drinking... There are many things you can do to take care of your heart, but changing how many hours of sleep you truly need to function is not one of them.

  29. So how do I stay asleep? I've no problem falling asleep, but wake up after about 4.5 - 5 hours. I do all the recommended things. But nothing works. And I have the female bonus - night sweats and hot flashes. Should I drug myself into oblivion? Stressing about not sleeping leads to heart attacks...

  30. @D. DeMarco I agree that worry about sleep is itself a problem. I've decided not to do that but to simply do the best that I can to follow healthy recommendations.

  31. @D. DeMarco Maybe hormone replacement therapy for the night sweats/hot flashes? They have bio-identical formulations that work, I know.

  32. People function on different amounts of sleep so I find it hard to believe that there is a uniform sweet spot of 6 to 9 hours a night. Many people don't get enough sleep for the majority of a week and then need to reboot by sleeping extra a day or two a week. What does science say about that? It probably is best to try to have a routine of 8 or 9 hours a night and some advocate for setting a bedtime alarm that forces us to just stop what we're doing and go to bed. For those with trouble falling asleep, I recommend not watching TV right before bed and ceasing screen use of tablets, laptops, and phones 30 to 60 minutes before bed. Set your phone to night screen mode so that if you check it during the night it doesn't blast you awake with bright light. Finally, listening to soothing music or those ASMR videos (they are meant for listening, not watching) on You Tube can help bring you down to a good place before bed because going from 100mph to zero is not always a good way to try to sleep. Sweet dreams.

  33. There may be a correlation between sleep patterns and cardiovascular health, but I see no evidence of causation. More likely, it is poor cardiovascular health is that causing the poor sleep patterns, rather than poor sleep patterns increasing heart attack risk. Or, very possibly, they are both symptoms of the same underlying cause.

  34. You know what I think contributes to intermittent sleep problems? Articles like this one, that rattle us, and instill new fears. Maybe we should all just pivot, and do the best we can, let ourselves off the hook when food or worries intrude on a night’s sleep, and begin to think about sleep in the same way we think about hunger; some days I am more hungry than other days, and therefore I adjust my eating pattern. Do we freak out when that happens? No. So why not just say to ourselves, some nights I sleep well, and some nights I don’t.

  35. Being fat is the biggest threat to health.