Science Says This Is Officially the Length of a Perfect Night of Sleep

At least when you're talking about heart health.

Sleep has recently emerged as the most crucial element of well-being, given that a poor night of shut-eye can ruin your mood, destroy your next-day workout, increase your risk of heart disease and dementia, inhibit your ability to retain memories and learn new skills, and even make you gain weight. You'd think that since it's so beneficial for you, getting as much sleep as possible is a good thing, but an increasing body of research shows that getting too much sleep is just as bad for you as not getting enough.

So what's the sweet spot? According to a new study presented on Sunday at the European Society of Cardiology Congress, the ideal length of a night of sleep is six to eight hours—at least where heart health is concerned.

Dr. Epameinondas Fountas of the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre in Athens and his colleagues employed a meta-analysis of 11 recent prospective studies of more than one million adults (1,000,541) without heart disease to determine the impact that sleep has on the cardiovascular system.

The researchers compared people who slept for less than six hours a day, more than eight hours a day, and six to eight hours a day, and found that the sleep-deprived group had an 11 percent greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease. What might surprise you is that those who slept too much had an even greater risk–33 percent—corroborating with recent research that says that getting more than 8 hours of rest per night could be detrimental to your health.

"Our findings suggest that too much or too little sleep may be bad for the heart. More research is needed to clarify exactly why, but we do know that sleep influences biological processes like glucose metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation—all of which have an impact on cardiovascular disease," Fountas said. "Having the odd short night or lie-in is unlikely to be detrimental to health, but evidence is accumulating that prolonged nightly sleep deprivation or excessive sleeping should be avoided."

Fountas also added that "the good news is that there are plenty of ways to get into the habit of getting six to eight hours a night—for example by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, avoiding alcohol and caffeine before bed, eating healthily, and being physically active."

His conclusion is one we can all get behind: "Getting the right amount of sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle."

For more research on daytime sleep, check out Science Says This Is the Length of a Perfect Nap.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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