One extra hour...just one extra hour of sleep seems to lower the risk of developing calcifications, a precursor to heart disease. The converse is also true, namely, chronic partial sleep deprivation may be a risk factor for an array of common problems including weight gain, hypertension and diabetes - which all correlate with an increased risk of heart disease.
The study cited in the December 24th issue of JAMA, looked at healthy adults who developed coronary calcifications over a five-year period. The 27% of participants who developed the calcifications slept less than 5 hours a night. The number of adults with calcifications dropped to 11% in participants who slept 5 - 7hrs per night and only 6% of adults had cacification among those sleeping more than 7 hours per night.
This is the first study to directly correlate risk of calcifications with sleep duration. As researchers attempt to explain the cause/effect, they postulate:
(1) There may be some unidentified factor that reduces sleep duration and increases calcifications
(2) Blood pressure typically decreases with adequate sleep, so the fact that blood pressure is higher, could lead to calcifications
(3) Stress, or stress-induced hormones like cortisol have been tied to decreased sleep and increased calcifications.
This was a small study, so researchers would like to see replicated results before announcing dramatic conclusions but there is clearly suffcient data and studies to conclude that sleep deprivation can lead to subtle or more profound health consequences. And people should start to consider the need for at least 6 hours of sleep every night to possibly prevent these coronary calcifications.
Published On: December 24, 2008