Getting both an excessive amount of or insufficient sleep, could also be bad for your heart, say researchers, adding that folks who get seven or eight hours of sleep per night have less stiffness in their arteries, which is related to a lower risk of developing heart condition or suffering a stroke.
"The message, based on our findings, is 'sleep well, but not too well.' Getting too little sleep appears bad for your health but too much seems to be harmful as well," said study lead author Evangelos Oikonomou from Yale University in the US..
For this analysis, researchers assessed sleep patterns in 1,752 people living in the Corinthia region of Greece employing a standard questionnaire.
They ranged in age from 40 to 98 years, with a mean age of 64 years old
Participants were then divided into one out of four groups based on self-reported sleep duration: normal (seven to eight hours a night), nap duration (six to seven hours a night), very nap duration (less than six hours a night) or long sleep duration (greater than eight hours a night).
At the time of the study, each participant also underwent ultrasound imaging to gauge the thickness of the inner a part of the arterial wall.
Thickening of the arterial walls reflects plaque buildup and is related to an increased risk of stroke and other cardiovascular events.
The researchers found that even after accounting for other known risk factors for a heart condition or stroke, people that slept for six hours or some eight hours an evening had significantly greater odds of getting plaque buildup within the walls of their carotid arteries--a 54 per cent and 39 per cent increase, respectively--compared with those that got seven or eight hours of sleep.
The study adds to mounting evidence that sleep patterns, almost like diet and exercise, may play a defining role in someone's cardiovascular risk.
"We don't fully understand the relationship between sleep and cardiovascular health. It could be that sympathetic nervous system withdrawal or a slowing [of this system] that occurs during sleep may act as a recovery phase for [usual] vascular and cardiac strain," Oikonomou said.
"Moreover, short sleep duration may be associated with increased cardiovascular risk factors--for example, unhealthy diet, stress, being overweight or greater alcohol consumption--whereas longer sleep duration may be associated with a less active lifestyle pattern and lower physical activity," Oikonomou added.
The research is scheduled to be presented at the American College of Cardiology's Annual Scientific Session alongside World Congress of Cardiology on March 28-30 in the US.