According to Philly.com, getting less than six hours of sleep a night can double the odds of a person dying from heart disease or stroke, especially those who already have the risk factors for such diseases, as well as diabetes. Patients who present at least three of these symptoms are diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.
And while researchers have known that things like metabolic syndrome - high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and/or triglycerides, high body mass index and high blood sugar - and poor sleep increase the risk of these diseases, the true impact of these other factors has remained poorly understood so far. He is a sleep psychologist at the Sleep Research and Treatment Center at Penn State's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
"If you have several heart disease risk factors, taking care of your sleep and consulting with a clinician if you have insufficient sleep is important if you want to lower your risk of death from heart disease or stroke", said lead author Julio Fernandez-Mendoza, an assistant professor at Penn State College of Medicine.
From a biological standpoint, the researchers found that short sleep may increase the risk of premature death, particularly among those with high blood pressure and high blood sugar levels, he said.
The researcher also explains that people with the syndrome may very well have a sedentary lifestyle or a poor diet choice, which were the factors that the study could not account for. "We need future studies that examine these hypotheses in combination, and in different groups of people with metabolic syndrome", Fernandez-Mendoza suggested. "If they are not sleeping well, a visit to the doctor and possibly a sleep study is in order".
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The researchers randomly selected 1,344 adults with an average age of 49 who agreed to spend one night in a sleep laboratory.
Just over 39 per cent were found to have at least three risk factors for heart disease, which when clustered together are known as metabolic syndrome.
The researchers then tracked the survival record of the participants for about 16 years.
Findings showed that metabolic syndrome patients who got less than 6 hours of sleep in the lab were 2.1 times more likely to die from heart disease or stroke, while those with metabolic syndrome who got more than 6 hours of sleep were only 1.49 times more likely to die from these events.
"The short sleepers with metabolic syndrome were also 1.99 times more likely to die from any cause compared to those without metabolic syndrome", said the study. Previous studies have relied on patients self-reporting sleep duration but, for the first time, the current study monitored sleep in a specific laboratory to improve accuracy. "Getting more sleep might be good for you, especially if you have these other problems".