Too Much Sleep Is Bad for the Heart

In the first study of its kind, researchers find that sleeping too much could have as many negative effects as sleeping too little.

Sleeping like a baby? A new study suggests that getting more than eight hours of sleep per night is bad for your heart. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user tibchris.

We just can’t catch a break when it comes to sleep. Too little of it can eventually lead to a myriad of illnesses, but new research suggests that too much of it also causes serious health issues.

Research presented at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology suggests that getting too little or too much sleep could mean serious trouble for your ticker. In a study involving more than 3,000 participants over the age of 45, those who got less than six hours of sleep were two times more likely to have a stroke or heart attack and 1.6 times more likely to have congestive heart failure.

Those who slept more than eight hours weren’t much better off. They were two times more likely to have angina–a chest pain that occurs when the heart isn’t getting enough blood supply and oxygen–and 1.1 times more likely to have coronary artery disease.

“Based on these findings, it seems getting six to eight hours of sleep every day probably confers the least risk for cardiovascular disease over the long term,” said Dr. Rohit R. Arora, the study’s lead researcher, in a statement

While lack of sleep has long been associated with health problems, such as heart disease, weight gain, and high blood pressure, the authors of the study said more research is needed to determine why oversleeping causes heart problems, too. Arora said a possible reason may be that patients who overslept may have been given a greater medical evaluation than others.

This is the first study of its kind to find an association between sleep duration and heart health. “Clinicians need to start asking patients about sleep,” said Arora, “especially those [patients] who are already at greater risk for heart disease.”