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Heart-Healthy Benefits of Quality Sleep

Dr. Craig Smith, MD

4 Min read

While health experts have long extolled the virtues of achieving around 8 hours of quality sleep, a recent study from the University of Colorado Boulder has shed new light on the intricate relationship between sleep duration and heart health. Strikingly, both inadequate and excessive sleep have been identified as potential risk factors for heart attacks, transcending individual health statuses.

The study

The study, drawing data from over 461,000 individuals aged 40 to 69 who had never experienced a heart attack, offers compelling evidence that aligns sleep habits with heart health. Researchers delved into 7 years' worth of medical records from the UK Biobank to compare the sleeping patterns of those who achieved 6 to 9 hours of sleep per night with those who slept less than 6 hours or more than 9 hours. The findings underscored a 20 percent higher likelihood of heart attacks in individuals with insufficient sleep and a 34 percent greater chance in those who consistently exceeded the recommended sleep duration.

Genetic profiles

Moreover, the study delved into the participants' genetic profiles, revealing a remarkable discovery: individuals with a genetic predisposition for heart disease could mitigate their risk by approximately 18 percent by adhering to the recommended 6 to 9 hours of sleep each night. This revelation, according to senior author Céline Vetter, an assistant professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder, positions sleep duration as a pivotal lifestyle factor contributing to heart health across diverse risk profiles.

Mechanisms and importance of sleep

The exact mechanisms through which sleep influences heart health remain complex, but the study highlights the broader importance of sleep for overall well-being. Dr. Meir Kryger, a sleep expert and pulmonologist at Yale Medicine, underscores the repercussions of inadequate sleep, including metabolic abnormalities, inflammation, stress, compromised immune function, and abnormal blood vessel function. These factors, when combined, elevate the risk of heart attacks, particularly in individuals genetically predisposed to heart disease.

Chronic sleep disturbances

For those grappling with sleep-related challenges, the study emphasizes the potential consequences of chronic sleep disturbances on heart health. Dr. Guy Mintz, the director of cardiovascular health and lipidology of cardiology at Northwell Health’s North Shore University Hospital, draws a parallel between the heart and a motor that necessitates downtime, emphasizing the need for proper rest to avoid potential health complications.


While individual sleep needs may vary, the overarching recommendation from health experts is clear: prioritize sleep within the 6 to 9-hour range for sustained heart health benefits. The study proposes that even individuals genetically predisposed to heart disease can significantly reduce their risk of heart attacks by ensuring adequate and consistent sleep.

Seeking guidance and lifestyle choices

For those encountering persistent sleep issues, seeking the guidance of a sleep expert is encouraged. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one potential avenue for addressing insomnia, as identified by Vetter. Additionally, lifestyle choices, including the timing of activities such as exercise, caffeine intake, and alcohol consumption, can significantly impact sleep quality. Keeping a sleep diary is a practical approach recommended by many health experts, enabling individuals to identify and address habits or factors impeding the achievement of the recommended sleep duration.

In conclusion

In conclusion, the research from the University of Colorado Boulder serves as a clarion call for individuals to prioritize quality sleep as a cornerstone of heart health. With its emphasis on the 6 to 9-hour sleep range, the study not only consolidates existing knowledge but also stands as a beacon for future research into the intricate interplay between sleep and cardiovascular well-being. As Dr. Mintz aptly notes, regardless of age or life milestone, ensuring proper rest is an invaluable investment in long-term health.

About the Author

In 1984, Dr. Craig Smith founded Lifesource. As a coach, he's worked with world-class athletes and guided thousands towards successful weight loss. Driven by a desire to elevate his understanding of the human body, he returned to the rigors of medical school in his 50s, achieving his goal of becoming a physician at 56. Now in his 60s, Dr. Smith leads by personal example, continuing to inspire, educate and empower individuals from all walks of life to achieve their health and fitness goals. If you wish to train and diet online with Dr. Smith, hear his message and schedule a 45-minute consultation on the New You page.