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Around a third of British adults regularly get less than five hours a night and previous studies have found that such lifestyles can raise the risk of diabetes and stroke, while more sleep reduces the chance of catching a cold.
But the imbalance between the sexes is a newer phenomenon.
Michelle Miller, professor of biochemical medicine at Warwick Medical School, who conducted the latest research, said everyone should aim for seven to eight hours’ shut-eye a night, but that it was particularly important for women.
‘These results support the idea that short sleep is associated with an increase in cardiovascular risk and that the association between sleep duration and cardiovascular risk factors is markedly different in men and women.’
The research, conducted jointly by Warwick University and University College London, found that the levels of two chemicals linked to heart problems vary significantly with sleep duration in women, but not men.
Levels of Interleukin-6, a marker related to coronary heart disease, were significantly lower in women who slept for eight hours rather than seven.
And levels of High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), which can indicate a future risk of cardiovascular disease, were significantly higher in women who slept for five hours or less.
But among men, the differences were far less marked. Professor Miller said more study was needed to work out why this was, although she said differences in hormone levels may be to blame.
The study, published in the American journal Sleep, involved more than 4,600 civil servants from London, aged between 35 and 55. Some 73 per cent were men.
They were asked about length of sleep and their health was assessed by a screening examination, during which blood tests were taken.
June Davison, cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘This study found that women – but not men – who sleep less tend to have indicators of increased inflammation.
It is thought that inflammation in our body is related to heart and circulatory disease.
‘Previous research suggests that a good night’s sleep may help to keep our heart and circulation healthy, and this study could point to an underlying reason behind that finding.’
Source: Mail Online . July 1st.’09