This Is Exactly How Much Sleep You Need to Be Getting, Study Says
If you sleep more or less than this, you may be opening yourself up to serious health problems.
It's no secret that not sleeping enough can affect your health in different ways. But as it turns out, sleeping too little may not be the only problem. In fact, one study has found that sleeping too much can also affect your health. So what is the perfect amount of sleep? According to recent research, six to eight hours of sleep is exactly how much sleep you need to be getting each night.
The March study, which was conducted by researchers from the American College of Cardiology, observed the sleep patterns of nearly 2,000 participants and found that those who slept less than six hours and those who slept more than eight hours both had higher odds of having plaque buildup in their carotid arteries—the two large blood vessels in your neck—compared to those who got seven to eight hours of sleep.
"The message, based on our findings, is 'sleep well, but not too well,'" lead study author Evangelos Oikonomou, MD, said in a statement. "Getting too little sleep appears bad for your health, but too much seems to be harmful as well."
However, less sleep was ultimately more harmful than too much sleep. Those who slept less than six hours had a 54 percent increase in plaque buildup, while those sleeping more than eight hours saw a 39 percent increase—which is significant, but not as high.
Either way, the addition of extra plaque is something to take seriously. Plaque buildup in the carotid arteries is associated with an increase risk of stroke and other cardiovascular damage, according to the Mayo Clinic. This is because those arteries are responsible for delivering blood to your brain and head, which is made difficult when plaque is clogging up the path.
Given that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nearly 140,000 Americans die from strokes each year, it's a statistic you may want to avoid. Thankfully, Oikonomou points out that you can easily make the change. "Unlike other heart disease risk factors such as age or genetics, sleep habits can be adjusted," he notes.
At this point, Oikonomou says not much is known as to why plaque buildup is affected by sleep patterns, because researchers have yet to "fully understand the relationship between sleep and cardiovascular health." However, a June study from this year, published in the PLOS Biology journal, managed to link sleep disturbance with chronic inflammation in the blood stream, which causes plaque buildup. That inflammation could have some correlation with sleep duration.
"It seems that [six to eight hours] of sleep may act as an additive cardioprotective factor among people living in modern western societies, and there can be other health benefits to getting sufficient and quality sleep," Oikonomou said. And for more ways to get better rest, Never Put This In Your Body Before Bed If You Want to Sleep, Doctors Say.