Getting Less Than 6 Hours of Sleep Per Night May Increase Risk of Cardiovascular Disease, Study Finds

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As a culture, America tends to do this thing where it almost values not getting sleep. People are expected to pull all-nighters for school or work or talk about how they're constantly "booked and busy". You don't just need sleep to feel better when you wake up in the morning, though. According to a new study, getting less than six hours of sleep per night may increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Sleep is important, for both your mind and your body.

Each individual person needs different amounts of sleep, which kind of depends on who you are. But in general, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that younger adults (those ages 18 to 25) and adults (ages 26 to 64) get about seven to nine hours of sleep each night. It's important to try to stick to those numbers as well as you can, because missed sleep adds up. The NSF's Sleep.org noted getting two to three hours too little for a couple of nights can have the same effect as pulling an all-nighter. And if you have a slew of those too little nights strung together? That can add up to a lot of missed sleep.

What happens, though, if you happen to consistently get less than six hours of sleep per night? In a study recently published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers looked into how sleep duration and sleep quality can affect heart health.

The research team worked with nearly 4,000 people without any sort of known history of heart disease, as noted by the abstract, with an average age of 46. About 63 percent of the participants were men. Participants were divided into four groups based on hours of sleep, according to the study's abstract: very short duration sleep (less than six hours); short sleep duration (six to seven hours), reference sleep duration (seven to eight hours), and long sleep duration (more than eight hours).

Participants wore an actigraph over the course of the seven-day study in order to measure activity, as reported by USA Today. In addition, the outlet reported that study participants underwent 3D heart ultrasounds and cardiac CT scans in order to look for potential signs of heart disease.

Researchers found that those in the very short duration sleep group were 27 percent more likely to develop atherosclerosis than those in the reference sleep duration group, according to USA Today. Atherosclerosis is a condition that results in a build-up of plaque in your arteries and is a common cause of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease, as noted by WebMD.

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In a statement, the study's senior author, José M. Ordovás, wrote, "This study emphasizes we have to include sleep as one of the weapons we use to fight heart disease — a factor we are compromising every day."

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 1 in 3 adults are not getting enough sleep at night, noting that Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders, non-Hispanic Black people, multiracial non-Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaska Natives were all less likely to get enough sleep on a regular basis.

Wayne Giles, director of the CDC's Divison of Population Health, said, according to the report, "As a nation we are not getting enough sleep. Lifestyle changes such as going to bed at the same time each night; rising at the same time each morning; and turning off or removing televisions, computers, mobile devices from the bedroom, can help people get the healthy sleep they need."

There is a lot of pressure to stay busy and to always be on the move, but neglecting your sleep can take a serious toll on your body. So shut your phone off, get into bed, and try to catch up on some sleep.