At Least Six Hours of Sleep Needed for Optimal Heart, Stroke Risk Reduction

An analysis in the Journal of the American Heart Association reveals that in middle-aged adults with high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease or stroke, getting less than six hours of sleep per night is associated with an increased risk for early death and cancer.

“Our study suggests that achieving normal sleep may be protective for some people with these health conditions and risks,” lead author Julio Fernandez-Mendoza, PhD, and associate professor at Pennsylvania State College of Medicine and sleep psychologist at the Sleep Research & Treatment Center of the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, said in a press release. “However, further research is needed to examine whether improving and increasing sleep through medical or behavioral therapies can reduce risk of early death.”

The analysis included more than 1,600 adults (aged 20 to 74 years, more than half women) from the Penn State Adult Cohort. Participants were categorized into two groups as having stage 2 high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes, and having heart disease or stroke. Participants were studied in sleep laboratories between 1991 and 1998, and their causes of death were tracked up to the end of 2016.

According to the study results, the risk of mortality associated with cardiometabolic risk factors or cardiovascular/cerebrovascular diseases was significantly increased in subjects who received less than six hours of sleep per night. In those who slept less than six hours nightly, cardiometabolic risk factors were associated with a  higher risk for cardiovascular/cerebrovascular disease-linked mortality (HR=1.83; 95% CI, 1.07 to 3.13) and a higher risk of cancer mortality (HR=2.92; 95% CI, 1.28 to 6.65).

“Clinicians should become aware that the risk of all‐cause and cancer mortality associated with hypertension, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, or stroke is greater in patients with objective short sleep duration, a potentially modifiable risk factor,” the researchers wrote in their paper of the study implications. “Patients with hypertension, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, or stroke, who sleep objectively short, may benefit from targeted treatments to lengthen sleep and improve their long‐term prognosis.”