Most people don't need to be reminded that sleep is an important part of staying healthy. Adults are supposed to reach a minimum recommendation of seven hours per night, but in practice, 40 percent of Americans get less sleep than they should. In addition to the short-term negative effects of tiredness throughout the day and lower cognitive function, not getting enough sleep can increase one's risk for serious diseases.
As studies have shown that sleeping too much may also raise risks for heart disease and strokes, there's clearly a sweet spot to hit when it comes to getting nightly rest. In a recent study of 9,700 people all employed at a health organization called Baptist Health South Florida, researchers compared groups of people who slept for different average lengths of time to see how well they met seven key criteria for heart health as determined by the American Heart Association. The three groups were divided by those who got less than six hours of sleep per night, six to 7.9 hours per night, and eight or more hours per night.
On a high level, the data collected showed that people who slept eight or more hours per night were 2.7 times more likely to meet six or seven of the criteria compared to the group who slept less than six hours per night. The researchers also noted that the majority of the people in the study who fell into the latter group were more likely to be female and not have a college degree. Although the results from the study don't prove cause and effect — meaning that less sleep doesn't necessarily guarantee than one will meet fewer of the AHA's heart health criteria — it's clear that there's at least somewhat of a connection between getting more sleep and having a healthier heart.
Everyone seems to complain that they don't get enough sleep as it is, but the demands of daily life being as they are, it's hard to push yourself to actually get it. If more studies surface confirming the idea that less sleep seriously increases risks of heart disease, that might be enough to push self-sleep-deprivers into healthier practices.
Cover image: Vic via Flickr