Sleep Duration and Cardiovascular Disease Risk

The heart and sleep — is there a connection? Dr. Lee Surkin, our chief medical editor, writes about how sleep quality plays a huge role in increasing cardiovascular disease risk.

by Lee A. Surkin, MD, FACC, FCCP, FASNC, FAASM

We are all aware of the fact that sleep is of great importance for our overall health and well-being. But, did you know that sleep and heart disease are closely connected? Probably not. Hence, if you want to learn more about the effects of sleep deprivation and how sleep duration plays a huge role in increasing cardiovascular disease risk, continue reading below.

Sleep Duration and Heart Health

According to studies (Laksono et al., 2022), poor sleep quality or short sleep duration is linked to increased cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis. Plus, chronic short sleep increases the risk of cardiovascular events. The effects of sleep deprivation also include weight gain, diabetes, inflammation, stroke, heart attack, and death.

Sleep Duration and Mortality

Researchers conducted a study on mortality data from almost 7,000 adults over nine years (Bradley, T. D., & Floras, J. S., 2009). The results showed that the mortality rate from ischemic heart disease, cancer, and stroke was lower in those getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night. In addition, the death rate was higher by 1.7 times in men getting less than 6 or more than 9 hours of sleep per night. Subsequent studies have confirmed this data.

Sleep Duration and Cardiovascular Disease

A review of 15 separate studies (Nagai, M., Hoshide, S., & Kario, K., 2010) on the effects of sleep deprivation on cardiovascular events that included almost 475,000 participants with a follow-up done for 7 to 25 years showed that a little bit over 16,000 events occurred during this period. These cardiovascular events included 8,420 for total cardiovascular disease, 4,169 for coronary heart disease, and 3,478 for stroke.

The analysis pointed out that those getting less than 5-6 hours of sleep per night were at a 48% higher risk of coronary heart disease-related mortality or developing the disease. Additionally, those getting 8-9, or more, hours of sleep were at a 38% higher risk.

When it comes to sleep duration and stroke, the review found that those not getting enough hours of sleep (<5-6 hours) were at a 15% higher risk of stroke. And those who overslept, i.e., slept for more than 8-9 hours had a 65% increased risk for stroke.

Chronic short sleep increases the risk of cardiovascular events.

Sleep Duration and Coronary Artery Calcification

One of the main predictors of future coronary heart disease incidence is coronary artery calcification. A study of 500 participants with a follow-up done for five years found a strong connection between coronary artery calcification and reduced sleep duration (King et al., 2008). Furthermore, it showed that the risk of calcification may be reduced by a whopping 33% by simply increasing sleep duration by one more hour.

Sleep Duration and Hypertension

Last but not least, sleep duration and hypertension are also closely connected. One study tested the hypothesis that poor sleep increases the incidence of hypertension by conducting a longitudinal study of 4,800 participants (Gangwisch, J.E., et al., 2006).

The results showed that a higher percentage of younger individuals who got less than 7 hours of sleep were diagnosed with hypertension in the follow-up period of 8-10 years. Conversely, a higher percentage of older individuals who got more than 9 hours of sleep each night got diagnosed with hypertension in the follow-up period.

The Bottom Line

Multiple studies show that people who get less than 6-7 hours or more than 9 hours of sleep per night are at a higher cardiovascular disease risk and even more prone to cardiovascular mortality. That said, ensure you get good-quality 7-9 hours of sleep at night for optimal heart health.

Read more about the heart and sleep in Dr. Surkin’s previous article, “Addressing Poor Sleep May Help Heart Health,” at https://dentalsleeppractice.com/addressing-poor-sleep-may-help-heart-health/.

Lee A. Surkin, MD, is the Chief Medical Officer of Nexus Dental Systems. A private practitioner in cardiology, sleep medicine, and obesity medicine, he is one of a small group of physicians to be triple board certified in cardiology, sleep medicine, and nuclear cardiology. In 2009, he created Carolina Sleep – the only dedicated sleep medicine practice in eastern NC. Dr. Surkin has created a cardiovascular and sleep healthcare model that includes a multi-faceted diagnostic and treatment approach that is enhanced by a network of relationships with physicians, dentists, respiratory therapists, sleep technologists, and public officials who recognize the important role that sleep medicine has in our daily life. In 2012, Dr. Surkin founded the American Academy of Cardiovascular Sleep Medicine which is a not-for-profit academic organization dedicated to educating healthcare providers, supporting research, and increasing public awareness of the convergence between cardiovascular disease and sleep disorders. In 2014, Dr. Surkin created a new multi-specialty practice called Carolina Clinic for Health and Wellness which combines his specialties with primary care, gynecology, behavioral health and a medical spa. Dr. Surkin is married with three daughters and a golden retriever and resides in Greenville, NC.

  1. Laksono, S., Yanni, M., Iqbal, M., & Prawara, A. S. (2022, February 7). Abnormal sleep duration as predictor for cardiovascular diseases: A systematic review of prospective studies. Sleep disorders. Retrieved April 10, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8844105/
  2. Bradley, T. D., & Floras, J. S. (2009). Obstructive sleep apnoea and its cardiovascular consequences. Lancet (London, England), 373(9657), 82–93. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(08)61622-0
  3. Nagai, M., Hoshide, S., & Kario, K. (2010). Sleep duration as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease- a review of the recent literature. Current cardiology reviews, 6(1), 54–61. https://doi.org/10.2174/157340310790231635
  4. Gangwisch, J.E., et al. (2006). Short Sleep Duration as a Risk Factor for Hypertension. Hypertension, 47, pp 833–839. https://doi.org/10.1161/01.HYP.0000217362.34748.e0
  5. King, C. R., Knutson, K. L., Rathouz, P. J., Sidney, S., Liu, K., & Lauderdale, D. S. (2008, December 24). Short sleep duration and incident coronary artery calcification. JAMA. Retrieved April 21, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2661105/

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