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Study: Too Much Sleep As Bad For The Heart As Too Little

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There is an important health warning about your heart and how much you're sleeping, or not sleeping.

A new study shows that too little -- or too much -- sleep affects your heart health, as does your sleep quality, CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reported Monday.

We know we're a sleep-deprived nation for a variety of reasons. So we're told to get more sleep, but how much and is it quality sleep?

It turns out, what we need is the Goldilocks amount of sleep -- not too much or too little, just the right amount.

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Scott Moran is a nurse in a sleep clinic, so he knows how important a good night's rest is professionally and personally.

"I was diagnosed about 15 years ago with sleep apnea. I finally had an answer to why I was so tired," Moran said.

Tired businessman sleeping on a sofa
(Credit: Thinkstock.)

But it's not just about sleep apnea. New research shows people who sleep less than six hours a night may be at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. The study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology finds an association between poor sleep quality and having more plaque buildup in the arteries throughout the body.

Dr. Deepak Bhatt is a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

"Having plaque in the arteries, say to the heart, is what predisposes to heart attacks, and having plaque in the brain is what causes most forms of stroke," Bhatt said.

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Previous studies shows lack of sleep can also increase other heart disease risk factors, like blood pressure, inflammation and obesity. But too much sleep could also be bad for the heart. The latest study suggests sleeping more than eight hours a night may also increase plaque in the arteries, especially for women.

"Probably the sweet spot for sleep duration is around seven-eight hours, but I should say that is seven-eight hours of really good sleep, because, again, the quality of sleep matter. It's not just the quantity," Bhatt said.

That's the amount of sleep Moran aims to get each night. He encourages anyone having trouble sleeping to see a sleep specialist.

"Snoring, waking up more tired than when you went to bed. You're having memory loss issues, definitely get it checked," he said.

Moran now uses a CPAP machine to improve his sleep quality.

The study also found that people with short, disrupted sleep are more likely to drink alcohol and caffeine. What the study doesn't tell us is exactly how too little or too much sleep leads to clogged arteries.

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