Gentleman sleeping in his bed.

Sleep plays an important role in your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.

People who sleep too much or too little may be more likely to have early signs of heart disease, according to a study of more than 47,000 apparently healthy young and middle-aged adults.

The study volunteers filled out sleep questionnaires and underwent tests to assess the arteries in their hearts and legs. Researchers found that people who slept for nine or more hours per night had more calcium buildup in their heart artery walls and stiffer leg arteries than those who slept seven hours per night.

These early signs of heart disease were also more prevalent in people who logged five or fewer hours of sleep per night and in people who reported poor sleep quality.

Insomnia is linked to high blood pressure and heart disease. Over time, poor sleep can also lead to unhealthy habits that can hurt your heart, including higher stress levels, less motivation to be physically active, and unhealthy food choices. For better sleep, get enough natural light, especially earlier in the day.

The authors, whose study was published online September 10 by Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, note that many studies have linked insufficient sleep to high blood pressure and other factors that boost heart disease risk. It's less clear how excess sleep might contribute to early heart disease.

One possibility is that people who sleep longer than normal might have fragmented, poor-quality sleep, which may boost levels of inflammation, a known risk factor for heart disease.

“Sleeping a solid seven or eight hours per night is a marker of good heart health,” says cardiac surgeon A. Marc Gillinov, MD. “Exactly how sleep influences the coronary arteries is still being studied, but we do know that not getting enough sleep is associated with risk factors for heart disease.”

Sleep is essential for a healthy heart. People who don't sleep enough are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease—regardless of age, weight, smoking and exercise habits. Over time, this can lead to higher blood pressure during the day and a greater chance of cardiovascular problems.

Don't put your health and life at risk. Call Alaska Sleep Clinic to speak with one of our sleep specialists to get answers to your sleep problems.

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