A research at Emory University has found that people who sleep poorly are at a risk for heart disease and stroke because they have higher levels of inflammation.

Acute deprivation of sleep, in fact, might lead to increased production of inflammatory hormones and changes in the functioning of blood vessels. Researchers observed acutely sleep deprived participants for over 24 hours among a group of 525 middle aged people.

"Most of the studies looking at the body's response to lack of sleep have looked at subjects who have been acutely sleep deprived for more than 24 hours in experimental sleep laboratories," study author Alanna Morris, MD, a cardiology fellow at Emory University School of Medicine said. “Nothing of this sort has been investigated in epidemiologic studies.”

Researchers weighed the quality of sleep among the participants using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index survey, where a score over six is considered poor. The participants’ hours of sleep were also taken into consideration for analysis.

Those who slept for six or fewer hours often had higher levels of three inflammatory markers: fibrinogen, IL-6 and C-reactive protein. In particular, average C-reactive protein levels were about 25 percent higher (2 milligrams per liter compared to 1.6) among those who slept for less than six hours as compared to those who got adequate sleep between six and nine hours.

"For people who got little sleep, the C-reactive protein levels were increased, but still in the range of what health authorities would consider low to intermediate risk,” Morris said. “It remains uncertain whether short sleep duration contributes directly to cardiovascular mortality or whether it is a mediating or moderating factor”.