#354 How Many Hours of Sleep Does Your Heart Need?

How Many Hours of Sleep Does Your Heart Need?

While everyone knows that not getting enough sleep is bad for your heart and for your lifespan, is there a risk associated with getting to much sleep? Also, for those who struggle to sleep at night, is there anything you can do to erase the risks of not getting enough sleep? Read on to learn the answers to these questions.

The Goldilocks Zone of Sleep

Getting the right amount of sleep is crucial for a healthy heart and a longer life. The study, involving 92,221 participants who were followed for 7 years, found that sleeping 6 to 8 hours a night was considered optimal. This study used an accelerometer to accurately determine when people were exercising and when they were sleeping.

Those who slept less than 6 hours faced a 34% increased risk of dying over 7 years, with a striking 56% higher risk of heart disease-related deaths. Surprisingly, sleeping more than 8 hours also increased the risk, but not as much as insufficient sleep. Striking a balance, around 7 hours of sleep, emerged as the sweet spot for heart protection and reducing the risk of premature death.

Exercise Erases Any Bad Sleep in this Study

After examining the charts and tables, it seemed that getting just a bit more than 7 hours of sleep each day was the healthiest for shielding your heart and reducing the chances of dying from heart disease or any cause. For those snoozing only 3 hours a day, their risk of heart disease or any other fatal issue was incredibly high, off the charts, to be exact. Surprisingly, even people sleeping over 10 hours daily faced a significantly elevated risk of heart disease or death.

Now, the most fascinating part of the study emerges. If you’re someone really into exercise, you can wipe out the higher risks associated with both too little and too much sleep. Surprisingly, even those catching less than 3 hours of sleep each night saw their increased risks of heart disease and death virtually disappear with intense levels of exercise. The same went for those sleeping more than 10 hours – their heightened risks seemed to almost vanish with more than ample exercise.

The individuals with the lowest rates of heart disease and death in the study were the ones getting the usual amount of sleep (6-8 hours daily) and going beyond the recommended exercise levels (more than 150 minutes per week of intense exercise that gets your heart pumping and makes you break a sweat). On the flip side, those with the highest risks of heart disease and death were the ones doing less than 150 minutes per week of exercise and sleeping either less than 6 hours or more than 8 hours daily.

Cancer Risks Based on Sleep and Exercise Duration

Similarly, the study revealed that the correlation between sleep duration, exercise, and health risks extended to cancer as well. To achieve the utmost protection against both heart disease and cancer, it’s imperative to engage in more than 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical exercise per week while ensuring a consistent sleep routine of 6 to 8 hours each night.

Straying from these optimal ranges significantly elevates the risks of cancer and heart disease. Thus, maintaining a balance by meeting these recommended guidelines emerges as a powerful strategy for minimizing health risks and promoting overall well-being.

Why is this study so important?

This study is super important for a few big reasons. First off, it’s the first one I’ve seen that connects how much we move, measured by fancy gadgets called accelerometers, to how we sleep and how that affects our chances of getting heart disease, cancer, or even dying. This new way of looking at things gives us a better, more detailed understanding of how exercise, sleep, and our health are all interconnected.

Second, it gives us hope if you’re someone who either doesn’t get enough sleep or sleeps too much, you can basically cancel out those risks by doing more exercise than the usual advice suggests. And get this – there’s no such thing as too much exercise in this case; the more, the better.

Lastly, this study outshines the ones before it because it uses accelerometers to keep track of how much people move and how long they really sleep. This high-tech method makes the study’s findings much more reliable, making it way more trustworthy when it comes to understanding how sleep, exercise, and health are all interconnected.

How could exercise help those who don’t get enough sleep or sleep too much?

I think exercise might lower the risk of dying linked to both short and long sleep through different ways. When it comes to not getting enough sleep, there are a bunch of health problems tied to it, like your nervous system going into overdrive, insulin levels not well controlled, problems with your blood vessels, and inflammation.

Not sleeping enough also makes you eat too much, leading to gaining too much weight. Exercise does good things for your heart as it fights off inflammation, and helps your body handle sugar better. It can even fix some of the issues with blood vessels caused by lack of sleep. The various good things that exercise does for your health could be the reason it lessens the risk of dying from not sleeping enough.

On the other hand, when you sleep a lot, it might not be because of the sleep itself but a sign of other health problems. But in this study, the risk of dying went down more for people who slept a lot when they started exercising more. This might mean that the problems connected to sleeping too much could be balanced out by spending more time exercising.

Since both sleep and exercise need time, super long sleep might get in the way of doing enough exercise. These discoveries hint that exercising more could help offset the risks tied to sleeping too much and might be a key part of staying healthy.

Exercise: The Ultimate Equalizer

Even if you find yourself on the extremes of the sleep spectrum – either sleeping less than 6 hours or more than 8 hours – regular exercise can be your superhero. The study revealed that getting more than the recommended amount of exercise (more than 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous exercise) completely erased the increased risk associated with too little or too much sleep.

Whether you’re a short sleeper or enjoy longer nights, engaging in more than the recommended amount of exercise eliminated the heightened risks. The magic combination for the lowest heart disease and death risk? Sleeping 6 to 8 hours daily and exceeding the recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week.

Practical Tips for Optimal Sleep

Improving your sleep doesn’t have to be complicated. Establish a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Create an ideal sleep environment – a dark, cool room with minimal noise. Say goodbye to electronic devices before bedtime, and consider relaxing activities like a warm shower. As someone who battled insomnia, I’ve found that exercising for at least 2 hours a day, sticking to my 10 pm bedtime, and enjoying a warm shower before bed guarantee me an excellent night of sleep.

Make Exercise Enjoyable and Sustainable

Making exercise a regular part of your routine doesn’t have to be a chore. Find an activity you genuinely enjoy, mix it up to prevent overuse injuries, and consider group workouts for added motivation.

Personally, I love outdoor activities like mountain biking, trail running, and hiking, especially with my family during the warmer months. In winter, I hit the slopes for skiing with my wife or my children. On busy days at the hospital, I turn to our home’s indoor bike or elliptical machine. And whenever I’m sitting at my desk working I’m peddling a bike. Consistency is key – find what you love, and make it a daily commitment.

Take Control of Your Heart Health and Longevity

In conclusion, this groundbreaking study highlights the interconnectedness of sleep and exercise in influencing mortality risks. By optimizing both, you can significantly enhance your chances of a longer, healthier life (and avoid cancer as well). Strive for that sweet spot of 6 to 8 hours of sleep and exceed the recommended exercise guidelines. Your heart will thank you, and you’ll be on the path to a more vibrant, fulfilling life.

About the Photo

In the captivating image featured in my blog article, our family is joyously conquering the heights of a majestic mountain, blending the thrill of mountain climbing with the exhilaration of skiing down the mountain. Although only the beginner ski runs are officially open, the allure of untouched terrain beckons those willing to embark on a challenging hike. The sheer beauty of the snowy landscape, coupled with the physical exertion of climbing the mountain without the help of a chairlift, adds a unique dimension to the adventure.


The information provided in this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog. Reliance on any information provided by this blog is solely at your own risk. The author shall not be held responsible for any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions in the content or for any actions taken based on the information provided here.


Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.

  1. Valuable information! I like the idea that 2 hours of exercise, going to bed by 10 PM, a warm shower, and staying away from the TV and computer screens for 2 hours before bedtime almost guarantees good sleep! I am keeping this in mind when I get into a cycle of poor sleep!