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Too little sleep is bad for the arteries

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Your risk of developing peripheral artery disease (PAD)—when blood flow in the legs gets restricted—increases dramatically if you regularly get less than five hours sleep.

Poor sleepers increase their risk by up to 74 percent compared to those who regularly sleep for seven or eight hours every day.

Conversely, regularly sleeping well protects against developing PAD, say researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

Insufficient sleep is an unrecognised cause of PAD, which affects around 200 million people around the world.  Untreated, it increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The researchers analysed the sleeping habits and health of around 650,000 people, and looked for the risk factors for PAD.  Poor sleep emerged as the single biggest factor, responsible for a 74 percent increased risk, but, paradoxically, sleeping longer than eight hours also increased the risk, although it was a more modest 24 percent. 

Although sleeping a long time or napping during the day was linked to a higher risk of PAD, the researchers said no direct causal link could be established, suggesting other factors could be at play.

But poor sleeping habits do seem to increase your PAD risk.  Poor sleepers need to look at ways of getting a good night’s sleep, such as being more active during the day, the researchers say.

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European Heart Journal, 2023; 3: doi: 10.1093/ehjopen/oead008
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