The more we find out about sleep the more we realise that it is a fundamental aspect of our wellbeing. For a long time sleep was viewed in a simplistic and mechanistic fashion, that it ‘recharged our batteries’ and not much more. However, as we have peeled back the layers we have found that sleep is far more than a simple recharge, that it actually fulfils a huge range of different functions, from tissue regeneration to memory processing, from mood control through to appetite regulation.
One area of research that has shown how important sleep is has focused on the connection between hearts and sleep. A new study has found that sleeping for between six and eight hours every night could be vital in reducing the risk of suffering from heart problems or a stroke. The researchers discovered that people who tended to sleep for less than six hours each night were twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke as those who slept between six and eight hours each night. In other words, sleeping between six and eight hours may help you reduce your chances of having a heart attack or stroke by half.
The authors of the study said that ‘People whose sleep duration is at the extremes are at the highest risk of cardiovascular events, and the risk decreases as the number reaches a middle point” and recommend that “Six to eight hours is the best period of sleep duration according to this study.”
The study looked at 6,538 people who were taken from a nationally representative US health database and who had experienced at least one cardiovascular issue. They filled out questionnaires which showed that they slept for an average of just under seven hours a night. The researchers analyzed how long the subjects slept for and found that there were clear trends for certain types of cardiovascular problem in people who slept for fewer than six hours or more than eight hours.
Or is It the Other Way Round?
It needs to be stated that with any study like this, often the research is presented in one way when it could be interpreted in the exact opposite fashion. In other words, this study could actually show that people who suffered heart attacks and strokes were more likely to not sleep as much, that there may be something that makes them more susceptible to heart problems and less sleep. That one might not cause the other but that they may be connected.
Don't They Correct For That?
You may be asking whether they can correct for this issue. The answer is yes and no, while they can design studies that can limit the possibility of these problems of causation but the reality is that they can never remove them completely.
Despite issues of causality, there is a high probability that sleeping for between six and eight hours can reduce chances of heart problems, it is also the recommended amount of sleep for most people, so aim for this and you cannot lose.
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