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Cardiovascular Disease Risks & Poor Sleepers

People who sleep poorly or not long enough have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This does not apply to people who sleep less than six hours, but wake up feeling fit and rested. Researchers from Wageningen University and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) studied the link between the duration and quality of sleep and the incidence of cardiovascular disease among a group of 20,000 people.

The research team concluded that people who sleep for less than six hours and who also sleep badly are doubly unfortunate. The research showed that this group has a 65 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease compared with people who sleep soundly for seven to eight hours. Short sleepers who wake up feeling fit and rested have the same chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke as longer sleepers. Researcher Marieke Hoevenaar-Blom has been awarded a PhD for this research at Wageningen University.

The researchers think that short sleepers who wake up feeling fit enjoy a high quality of sleep. The team found that long sleepers (who sleep for nine hours or more) do not have an extra risk, despite claims to the contrary resulting from previous studies.

The findings imply that sleep can be added to the list of traditional positive lifestyle factors (healthy eating habits, not smoking, moderate alcohol consumption and sufficient physical activity). People who follow these “lifestyle rules” have a 57 percent lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and their chance of dying from cardiovascular disease is two-thirds lower. These figures compare with people who follow just one of these lifestyle rules. So a healthy lifestyle combined with a good night's sleep lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 65 percent, and the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by a staggering 83 percent.

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