Sleep is essential for good health and can help protect you against chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. On the contrary, not enough shut-eye can lead to weight gain, irritability and impaired memory – all of which could have serious repercussions for your wellbeing.

Sleep is often considered a luxury by those in the know. On average, Americans spend almost one-third of their lives asleep.

Legendary figures such as Florence Nightingale, Napoleon, Bill Clinton and Nikola Tesla have all been known for their ability to function on little sleep – testaments that short naps can be productive and efficient.

New research suggests that a person’s sleep duration (the number of hours they spend sleeping at night) could potentially increase their risk for peripheral arterial disease (PAD). People who don’t get enough rest are more likely to develop hardened arteries, leading to claudication – or cramping in the legs.

In a study involving more than 650,000 participants, scientists revealed that short sleep duration was linked to an increased risk of developing PAD. They noted this connection most clearly when comparing those who slept less than five hours to those who slept seven to eight hours each night.

Researchers examined data from the Million Veteran Program, U.K. Biobank and other large population studies and discovered that people who got less than five hours of sleep per night had more than double the risk for developing peripheral artery disease than those who got more than five hours per night.

Researchers also found that genetic factors may play a role in whether someone is short or long sleeper, such as DEC2 (which controls orexin levels), ADRB1, which regulates sleep-wake cycles, and NPSR1 (controlling brain protein that promotes wakefulness).

These findings suggest that the biological distinctions between short sleepers and those who sleep too long can be explained by evolution. Short sleepers likely possess brains which are better at waking up and staying alert, suggesting a natural selection advantage for them.

However, it’s unclear if short sleepers are immune from the risks of other conditions like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.┬áIt’s worth noting that these results are preliminary and more research is necessary to fully comprehend their long-term implications.

Maintaining a good quality sleep, as well as healthy diet, exercising regularly and managing health conditions such as diabetes can help to prevent peripheral artery disease from developing. Furthermore, it’s essential to stop smoking and reduce your stress level. Talk to your doctor if you have sleep disorder condition and seek for CPAP therapy and other sleep treatment if sleep apnea is diagnosed.