It's not just about feeling rested, it's a matter of the heart. Getting less sleep than recommended could spell future heart disease or even death.

Does Your Heart Need Sleep? You Bet It Does

Heart Health Benefits From Good Sleep

If you find yourself hitting snooze more often than not, let the sound of that merciless alarm be a warning that you aren’t getting enough sleep. It’s not just about feeling rested – it’s a matter of the heart. Getting less sleep than recommended on a regular basis could spell future heart disease or even death.

One reason the heart is so vulnerable to a lack of sleep is that the body experiences a series of physiological processes during sleep, says Dr. Michael Grandner, associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine–Tucson. Sleep restores energy, drops blood pressure, releases hormones, slows breathing, relaxes muscles, increases blood supply and promotes tissue growth and repair. “When we sacrifice sleep or the sleep we get is not good quality, it doesn’t allow those processes to happen the way they’re supposed to,” he says. Here’s how your sleep – or lack of sleep – could be affecting your heart:

Sleep Duration

People who are considered long sleepers – which means getting more than nine hours of sleep each night – don’t live as long as those who get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night, Grandner says. Short sleepers, or the 20 to 30 percent of us who get six hours or less each night, have even worse health outcomes, including an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

 In 2010, researchers from the United Kingdom and Italy published an analysis ​​in the journal Sleep that showed both short and long duration sleep predicted death among participants from 16 studies. Specifically, short sleepers had a 12 percent greater death risk than those who slept ​seven to eight hours a night​, and long sleepers had a 30 percent greater risk of dying. For short sleepers, the most common cause of death was coronary artery calcification. The short sleepers also had an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, obesity, Type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose control and high cholesterol.​​

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