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Between 6 and 9 hours of sleep appears to be a healthy amount for most people. Getty Images
  • People with genetic risk of having heart disease can protect themselves by getting the right amount of sleep.
  • But having too much or too little sleep can put people at risk for heart attack.
  • A third of adults in the United States don’t get the right amount of sleep.

Health experts have long touted the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep.

Get around 8 hours of Zzz’s a night and you’ll likely experience improved concentration and productivity. Sleep can also boost your immune system, athletic performance, and mood.

Despite all the benefits, more than a third of adults in the United States don’t get the right amount of sleep.

Now, new research from University of Colorado Boulder found that getting too little — or too much — sleep can boost your risk of heart attack, even if you’re healthy.

Additionally, everyone — including people who have a genetic predisposition for heart disease — can mitigate the risk of heart attack by getting about six to nine hours of sleep a night, according to a study in Journal of the American College of Cardiology published online yesterday.

This provides some of the strongest research to date that sleep duration is a key factor in regards to heart health, according to the researchers.

“If someone is looking to optimize their lifestyle, our data suggest that we should also strongly consider whether they are sleeping enough, or too long, as our findings support that these are key lifestyle risk factors contributing to heart health. And this is true in everybody, independent of their risk profile,” senior author Céline Vetter, an assistant professor of integrative physiology at University of Colorado Boulder, told Healthline.

The researchers evaluated the medical records of more than 461,000 people sourced from UK Biobank. The patients were between the ages of 40 to 69 and never had a heart attack. Researchers were able to look at 7 years of data on the patients to see their health conditions.

The research team compared the patients who slept 6 to 9 hours a night to those who slept less than 6 hours a night and more than 9.

The people who got less sleep were 20 percent more likely to have a heart attack, and those who slept more than 9 hours had a 34 percent greater chance of experiencing a heart attack.

On average, the further people fell outside the 6- to 9-hour range, the greater their risk was.

The researchers then looked at the participants’ genetic profiles to better understand how sleep affected their risk of having a heart attack.

They found that those with a genetic predisposition for heart disease cut their risk of a heart attack by about 18 percent if they slept between 6 to 9 hours.

While we don’t know the exact reason why sleep lowers the risk of heart attack, it’s well known that sleep is vital for our overall health and well-being.

Healthy sleep habits are linked with higher performance, mood, learning, and memory. Poor sleep, on the other hand, can wreak havoc on the body — which can, in turn, take a serious toll on the heart.

“Not sleeping enough can result in metabolic abnormalities (e.g. obesity), inflammation, stress, changes in immune function, and abnormal function of the lining of blood vessels. These can further increase the risk of having a heart attack in those already genetically predisposed to heart disease,” says Dr. Meir Kryger, a sleep expert and pulmonologist with Yale Medicine.

This can be extremely helpful information for anyone with a genetic predisposition for heart disease as they can significantly reduce their heart attack risk by prioritizing sleep.

Granted, not everybody has the easiest time falling asleep. Some struggle with anxiety or insomnia, while others face difficulty sleeping due to old age or restless newborns.

In general, short-term sleep issues won’t do much harm, according to health experts. However, chronic, continuous sleep disturbances can lead to serious health issues and exasperate existing health problems, especially related to the heart.

“The heart is a motor that pumps 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and requires down time, just like a car engine that would burn out if it ran 24/7,” says Dr. Guy Mintz, the director of cardiovascular health and lipidology of cardiology at Northwell Health’s North Shore University Hospital.

Of course, everyone’s sleep needs differ. Where one person may only need 6 hours of sleep, another may require about 9 hours a night.

Those who struggle with sleep on a regular basis should speak with a sleep expert. They can help you understand where the sleep problem is coming from and suggest possible remedies.

For example, cognitive behavioral therapy can help alleviate insomnia, Vetter said. In addition, sometimes lifestyle and the timing of certain behaviors — such as workouts along with caffeine, food, and alcohol intake — can cause disrupted sleep.

Many health experts recommend keeping a sleep diary in which a person logs their daily sleep patterns. They can help identify any habits or factors that may be keeping people from getting the recommended 6 to 9 hours of sleep a night.

All in all, everyone — genetic risk for heart disease or not — can do their heart a favor by prioritizing sleep.

“Proper rest is important at any age and life milestone,” Mintz said.

New research from University of Colorado Boulder found that sleeping either too much or too little can increase your risk for having a heart attack.

By getting around 6 to 9 hours of sleep a night, most people — including those with a genetic predisposition for heart disease — can substantially reduce their risk of having a heart attack.

This provides some of the strongest research to date that sleep duration is a key factor when it comes to heart health, according to the researchers.