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Posted: November 18, 2008

Too Little Sleep May Raise Heart Disease Risk in Elderly

There may be greater consequences to short-changing yourself on sleep than falling asleep during the day – and it doesn’t take much less than eight hours to have an impact. According to a report on older adults in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, sleeping less than 7.5 hours a day may be associated with future risk of heart disease.  

In addition, a combination of little sleep and overnight-elevated blood pressure appears to be linked to an increased risk of the disease, according to the medical journal report. 

Getting enough sleep is essential to prevent health conditions such as obesity and diabetes, as well as several risk factors for cardiovascular disease including sleep-disordered breathing and nighttime high blood pressure. 

Researchers at Jichi Medical University in Tochigi, Japan, monitored the sleep of 1,255 individuals with high blood pressure (average age 70.4) and followed them for an average of 50 months. 

Researchers noted patients' sleep duration, daytime and nighttime blood pressure and cardiovascular disease events such as stroke, heart attack and sudden cardiac death. 

During follow-up, 99 cardiovascular disease cases developed, and there was evidence that sleep duration of less than 7.5 hours was associated with these cases. 

"The incidence of cardiovascular disease was 2.4 per 100 person-years in subjects with less than 7.5 hours of sleep and 1.8 per 100 person-years in subjects with longer sleep duration," the authors wrote. 

Patients with shorter sleep duration, who also experienced an overnight increase in blood pressure, had a higher incidence of heart disease than those who got more sleep and had no overnight increase in blood pressure. 

However, the occurrence of cardiovascular disease in those with longer sleep duration vs. those with shorter sleep duration was similar in those who did not experience an overnight elevation in blood pressure. 

"In conclusion, shorter duration of sleep is a predictor of incident cardiovascular disease in elderly individuals with hypertension," particularly when it occurs with elevated nighttime blood pressure, the authors note. "Physicians should inquire about sleep duration in the risk assessment of patients with hypertension." 

(Article courtesy of

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