Sleep shortfall linked to higher risk of clogged arteries

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Too little sleep may be hard on your blood vessels, according to a study in the January issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

For the study, 3,974 healthy, middle-aged people wore watchlike devices called actigraphs for a week to track how long they slept and how often they woke up and moved during the night. The participants also received three-dimensional ultrasounds of arteries in their necks and upper legs and special scans to check their heart arteries.

People who slept less than six hours nightly were 27% more likely to have early signs of cholesterol-laden plaque (atherosclerosis) in their neck and leg arteries than those who got seven to eight hours of sleep a night. And the 20% of people with the worst-quality sleep (the most waking and movement) were 34% more likely to have atherosclerosis compared with those who got more restful sleep.

While this observational study doesn't prove that poor sleep causes clogged arteries, the findings add to growing evidence that at least seven hours of shut-eye per day is important for your health.

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