PhotoNot getting enough sleep can affect everything from what food we choose to eat and how accurate our memory is, and now a new study found that it could also affect the likelihood of developing heart disease. 

Researchers at the European Society of Cardiology have discovered higher numbers of low-income people suffering with heart disease, with women in particular struggling more so than men. The team is now pointing to poor sleep as the possible reason why. 

“The absence of mediation by short sleep in women could be due to the weaker relationship between occupation and sleep duration compared to men,” said researcher Dusan Petrovic. “Women with low socioeconomic status often combine the physical and psychosocial strain of manual, poorly paid jobs with household responsibilities and stress, which negatively affects sleep and its health-restoring effects compared to men.” 

The power of sleep

To understand how lack of sleep can affect consumers’ heart health, the researchers analyzed data from previous studies that included over 111,000 participants. 

The participants self-reported on a variety of factors so the researchers could best understand what’s at play, including the average number of hours they slept per night, their occupation and income, and their medical records. Everyone involved in the study also underwent medical exams to properly assess the status of their heart health. 

The researchers found that in over 13 percent of the men involved in the study who were in the lower income bracket, their heart disease was in direct correlation to their consistently short nights of sleep. For the purposes of the study, the researchers determined that a long night of sleep was anything over eight and a half hours, whereas a short night’s sleep was six hours or fewer. 

To combat this problem, the research team suggests that more legislation be passed to ensure that neighborhoods stay quiet during nighttime hours, as this is one such way to improve sleeping conditions. 

“Structural reforms are needed at every level of society to enable people to get more sleep,” said Petrovic. “For example, attempting to reduce noise, which is an important source of sleep disturbances, with double glazed windows, limiting traffic, and not building houses next to airports or highways.” 

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