(HealthDay News) — Sleep duration less than 6 hours and fragmented sleep are associated with atherosclerosis, according to a study published online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Fernando Domínguez, MD, PhD, from Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III in Madrid, and colleagues performed 7-day actigraphic recording in 3974 participants from the Progression of Early Subclinical Atherosclerosis study. Participants were categorized according to sleep duration: less than 6 hours (very short), 6 to 7 hours (short), 7 to 8 hours (reference), and more than 8 hours (long). The sum of the movement index and fragmentation index was used to define the sleep fragmentation index.

The researchers found an independent association for very short sleep duration with a higher atherosclerotic burden with 3-dimensional vascular ultrasound compared with the reference group (odds ratio, 1.27) after adjustment for conventional risk factors. The prevalence of multiple affected noncoronary territories was increased for participants within the highest quintile of sleep fragmentation (odds ratio, 1.34). In the different sleep groups, there were no differences regarding coronary artery calcification score.

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“Sleep is an important factor influencing cardiovascular health and could have a role as a marker of subclinical atherosclerosis,” the authors write. “These results highlight the importance of healthy sleep habits for the prevention of cardiovascular disease.”

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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Domínguez F, Fuster V, Fernández-Alvira JM, et al. Association of Sleep Duration and Quality With Subclinical Atherosclerosis. JACC. January 2019;73(2). DOI:10.1016/j.jacc.2018.10.060

Gottlieb DJ and Bhatt DL. More Evidence That We Could All Use a Good Night’s Sleep. JACC. January 2019; 73(2). DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2018.11.019