The study, conducted by the University of Warwick and University College London, has revealed that levels of inflammatory markers vary significantly with sleep duration in women, but not men.
The researchers found that levels of Interleukin-6 (IL-6), a marker related to coronary heart disease, were significantly lower in women who reported sleeping eight hours as compared with 7hours.
A second marker, High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), is predictive of future cardiovascular morbidity. Levels of hs-CRP were significantly higher in women who reported sleeping five hours or less.
Study's lead author Michelle Miller, Associate Professor of Biochemical Medicine at Warwick Medical School, said that short-term sleep deprivation studies have shown that inflammatory markers are elevated in sleep-deprived individuals, suggesting that inflammatory mechanisms may play a role in the cardiovascular risk associated with sleep deprivation.
"Our study may provide some insight into a potential mechanism for the observation in previous studies which indicates an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease in individuals who have less than five hours sleep per night and increased risk of non-cardiovascular death in long sleepers," she said.
The study involved more than 4,600 white participants from the University College London-based Whitehall II cohort study; 73 percent were men.
The study has been published in the American journal SLEEP.